The importance of family.

The people in my life and how they have influenced me.

My invisible family.

From the moment a woman sees her positive pregnancy test she feels a rush of love. Ultimately, after love, she feels fear, anxiety, excitement and a little more fear. But the overriding feeling is love. No matter what family you already have before you see those two pink lines, that new bundle of joy that is going to explode into your world is your family. Whether you are single, married, on your first child or your seventh, this new life breathes love into you. No matter how strong the fear, the love takes over.

The biggest gift a woman can have is the opportunity to be a mother. It is not a right for a woman to have a child, it is a privilege. That privilege can be taken away in the blink of an eye. That heart-wrenching moment, when you realise that life you are growing inside isn’t going to make it, is truly horrific. To be sent to an ante-natal department, seated with all the pregnant women, for a sonographer and a midwife to tell you that it “isn’t good news” is the worst thing an expectant mother can be told.

In my, unfortunately extensive, experience, miscarriage is harrowing. Somebody has ripped out your heart and thrown it under a bus. You have failed. The one natural thing your body should be able to do and it has failed. Your womb should be a comfortable home for your new child. Instead it is a hostile environment; life cannot cling to its walls any longer. People tell you how sorry they are, how you can try again, it just wasn’t meant to be, life is just so unfair. Do you really want to try again? When you know how easy it can all go wrong? Can you mentally cope with another loss? I have asked myself those questions more times than I should have had to.

To answer them, yes I did want to try again and no I probably couldn’t deal with that all over again. But I tried anyway. And failed. And failed. I was a failure.

But then I succeeded.

I so wanted to be excited, to feel the emotions a ‘normal’ woman would feel. Miscarriage has robbed me of those feelings. It has marred everything. I became anxious, almost to the point of depression, I couldn’t go out because people would see I was pregnant, then when the miscarriage that was bound to come along soon did actually happen I would have to un-tell them. I would have to hear their sympathies and their condolences. I would have to see the pregnant women that had become my enemies because they had what I so badly needed.

But it didn’t happen. Thank God, it didn’t happen again.

I will always remember those babies I couldn’t help, those babies I couldn’t grow to term. They are my invisible family. Nobody can see them, nobody feels them the way I did and still do. Nobody grieves for them the way I do. I wonder what they would be doing, whether they would enjoy reading, or painting, or climbing trees. These things I will never know.

Here’s to my invisible babies. My children I will never have the privilege and pleasure to know.


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My mum.

As I fleetingly mentioned in my previous post, I don’t think my mum has ever truly been happy. All I have ever known is her and her deep-seated relationship with depression.

As a child I saw her deserted by my father, left broken and on the floor. It was up to me to pick her back up and dust her off, preparing her for his return and his subsequent departures. It took us many years to get her strong enough to put an end to this devastating cycle and we finally lived as a single parent family.

Money was sparse and her depression still ruled her life. Her anxiety has prevented her from ever earning a living and she attempted suicide twice. She failed. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? I’m not sure I can answer that question honestly because I don’t think I know the answer yet. Her life takes dramatic turns all the time. I don’t know what she’s doing or how she’s feeling from one week to the next. One day I’ll see her and she’ll be on top of the world, even though I know it’s all a front. One day I’ll speak to her on the phone and she’ll be chain smoking, in her pyjamas and sobbing down the handset to me. She’ll not wash or eat for days but then one day she’ll wake up from this dark cloud and get back on with life until the next week or month.

I can honestly say that even though I have lived with her depression for so many years, I still don’t understand it. I still tell her to get a grip, get dressed and get out the house. She tells me it isn’t that easy. I don’t think I ever want to understand why something so simple to me can be so difficult for her.

She lived as a single woman with no romantic interests, after my dad left, for about eight years. Then I think she relived her youth. Had a few one night stands and started some car-crash relationships. She has just ended one of those relationships and jumped straight into another.

I’ve began to keep my distance now. I have my own family to support and I am a little tired of being the parent in our mother/daughter relationship.

She often asks me how I am so detached from everyone and how she can be like me. How am I so cold? Why am I so defensive? I truthfully told her it is because I don’t want to let the depression catch me. I don’t want to leave my emotions open to this debilitating condition. My emotions are in a locked box and I’m not sure who has the key.

I wonder what damage I am doing to my children by letting them see me so emotionally distant from everyone but I figure it can’t be much worse than the damage caused to me.

I’m trying to break the cycle but I think I have gone too far in the wrong direction.

I love my children and my husband dearly; more than they can ever know. I hug them, kiss them, feel those deep emotions a wife and mother feels but mostly keep my feelings to myself. I put a front on to everyone. I am always externally happy. If I have a problem I cry in the shower. I dust myself off and pick myself up. I refuse to make other people do that for me.

I am my own worst enemy.

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Pictures hold so many memories…

I have spent the morning with a friend looking back over pictures of my children as babies. They grow up far too quickly. We have been laughing about how bald my daughter was until she was about two years old, chuckling at my sons chubby cheeks and his multiple chins. There were pictures of all their ‘firsts’: smile, unaided sitting, weaning, crawling. Funny things like having pots and pans on their heads and the embarrassing pictures of them using the potty that all parents keep as ammunition to show first boyfriends and girlfriends. I can’t imagine my children being old enough for a boyfriend or girlfriend! It makes me feel so old. Every parent says that their children grow so quickly. My mother used to say it about me and I didn’t realise how true it was until my daughter was born five years ago.

My children’s lives have been documented to such a degree that I have thousands of pictures all stored across different media types; on my phone, a USB drive, the laptop, good ol’ fashioned prints in an album, on the wall, in frames. Everywhere. I must take at least one picture every day. I do ask myself sometimes if I take too many but I just can’t stop. Why do I do it? Maybe deep down I feel the need to preserve their youth. I know when they reach their teenage years they will shy away from the camera instead of posing and performing as they do now. I need to keep my memories alive. I need to recreate that moment in my head, remind myself how I was feeling at that particular moment. The pride you feel when your child does something new or funny. When I take that pictures I am momentarily pausing time.

I don’t really have many good, fun memories of my childhood. I can remember a few holidays and a few really poignant moments but not really any of the little, random things most people remember and take for granted. We get complacent about our lives and often we are only reminded of something when looking back over pictures. All the best memories I have aren’t from when I was with family and that makes me feel quite sad.

Technology today allows us to document our own lives, and our children’s, so much more than in the past. My mum doesn’t have many photos of us, not half as many as I do already, and I often wonder how many good memories are stored in her head. Is it better to have them privately stored in your brain-bank than it is to have them there in front of you? Nobody can see inside your head, nobody can see the pain that goes with bad memories and nobody can see the joy from the good. She never really talks of any and I sometimes think the bad has totally outweighed the good for her.

I would love to see a picture of my mum truly happy, truly smiling. I’m not sure one exists…


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Happy Father’s Day?

There are so many articles flying around at the minute talking about how important it is for children to have positive male role models in their lives when growing up. I couldn’t agree more and I certainly think my personality has been shaped through my experiences with my Dad. Barack Obama has recently said that being a father is “the most important job many of us will ever have.”

Unfortunately, the most influential member of my family has to be my Father.

I haven’t seen my Dad since I was 11. My parents divorced and I was, thankfully, given a choice as to whether I wanted contact to continue. I didn’t even have to think about my answer. No brainer. He was emotionally abusive, a compulsive liar, a cheat, sometimes physically violent and an all-round waste of air. I have no qualms with saying I hate him. My mum did her best as a single parent and we were better off without him. I have often said I wish she’d have divorced him earlier, it would have saved so many years of heartache.

Today is June 16th 2013: Father’s Day. The first thing you see when opening Facebook, Twitter or other social networking pages, is people wishing their fathers a ‘Happy Father’s Day’. I have to admit a pang of jealousy hits me right in the stomach when I see my friends posting their status updates and pictures. I never had a bond with my Dad, I never got to let him vet my first boyfriend, he never walked me down the aisle or gave me away when I got married to my husband. We never had that first dance you always see on those cringe-worthy TV weddings, he doesn’t come to my house to fix that leaky tap or put up some shelves, he never taught me to drive. All the stuff other dads do, he didn’t. He has missed out and so have my brothers and I. If I saw him in the street I probably wouldn’t even recognise him.

My father had taught me that all men lie and cheat, that women do not deserve to be respected emotionally or sexually. He also made it quite clear that women ought to be a slim size 10 with at least a D-cup bust for a man to find them attractive. My mum was always on diets and I certainly ended up with a very poor body image and by the time I came out of my first relationship my self-esteem was on the floor.

In my teens I flitted from boyfriend to boyfriend, having the odd relationship with much older men, constantly seeking love and the craving to be desired was huge and overpowering. I can see now that I was looking for someone to take me under their wing, a male constant in my life, but I was looking in all the wrong places. I became trapped in an abusive relationship and I felt like I was looking in on myself, screaming at myself that I was turning into my mother; downtrodden, abused, worthless. My boyfriend was another version of my father. I woke up one day, the clichéd ‘lightbulb moment’, and I left. I became a better person that day. A stronger person and I vowed to never let myself be a doormat ever again. There is a popular saying that women look for their father in their partners. That was certainly true in this instance.

Then I met my husband.

I turned up to meet him with no intentions of beginning a relationship. He was most likely going to be another in a long string of one-night stands, another notch on the already heavily engraved bedpost.

But he was different.

He taught me that not all men were like my father. I trusted him and he made me feel safe. I loved him from the word ‘go’. And he loved me. I just knew it. I felt it in my bones, that he was ‘The One’. Seven years have elapsed and I love him more than ever. He is my soul mate, my everything. He doesn’t lie, cheat or shout. He respects me and now I respect myself. I am a person with opinions and feelings that he respects. He is a fantastic father who spends time with his children and teaches them valuable lessons in life. He tries hard to be that positive role model in our children’s lives that my childhood lacked.

Being a good parent isn’t easy and we aren’t handed an instruction guide in the maternity ward. We do our best with the tools we are given from our parents. Perhaps my father’s parents were abusive; perhaps my dad couldn’t break that cycle. For that, I pity him.

Today is a Happy Father’s Day, to my husband from my beautiful children.

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My family so far…

So there’s me. Plus a husband, two children and a new cat. The important family members. Then there’s a few more; mother, father, brothers. You know, the general people one inherits when one is born. The people you can’t choose. You are given these people. They are your family. They might be brilliant, they might be a bit rubbish or they might be atrocious. I have been blessed with having a few that fit into each of those categories.

For the whole of my life I have wondered why I was given to my particular two parents. Don’t get me wrong they weren’t completely useless. They served me well enough to get me through High School with good grades, I was fed, watered, groomed and cleaned.

Although, emotionally they were a little… erm… lacking, let’s say.

Born in 1987, I grew up like any kid in the 90s. Parents working manual jobs, walking to school and back on my own, playing out til after dark, lots of kids on my council house street doing the same, living their own 1990’s life. As the eldest of three, I often got the blame, lots of sibling rivalry, nothing out of the ordinary. Everything was hunky dory. Until I became old enough to realise that my parents were not ‘hunky dory’ at all. Dad was knocking off a woman at work, Mum was sleeping with a bloke to get back at Dad. He left, came back, left and came back about six times before I was even ten. They finally divorced when I was 11 but he came back to get his fill when I was 13.

My brother, five years my junior, was oblivious to more than I was. My other brother, 13 years younger than me and a by-product of that post-divorce fling, missed it all but has bore the brunt of still living with my mother now. Poor lad.

I moved on and got my own life. My own husband and children. Free reign to mess them up as emotionally as possible, as much as my parents did to me. But I didn’t. I took a stand. None of this “my childhood was so bad that I can’t be a good parent.” I am a good parent. And I am a good parent because my own taught me what not to be.

That is the importance of family. Growing up, my family might not have been exceptionally reliable or nurturing, but they taught me what type of adult I wanted to be. It took me a while to get here but I have arrived and my family is important to me…

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