I went into labour on a Tuesday afternoon in July whilst out food shopping in Tesco with Ben! I knew that familiar feeling of things getting started and felt thankful in that first moment for having experience on my side to guide me and to help me feel at ease to trust the process and my body. My waters began leaking that evening as Ben was watching a World Cup football game and Jasmine slept upstairs. I decided not to call the Midwives at that stage, knowing that they may suggest I come in to hospital to be examined if things didn’t start on their own and any trips to hospital were not part of my birth plan, unless of course, it was absolutely necessary. I felt assured in this very early stage that everything was OK so I distracted myself by doing the washing up and getting the house “birth ready,” (tidying up) then went off to bed hoping to catch some sleep whilst trying to ignore the building feeling of anticipation that my home birth journey was really about to start, after all this time and preparation.
Summer started nursery yesterday, for just under 4 hours, and when I went to pick her up, I was told that she’d cried the entire time, other than settling briefly outside for a few moments and inside for a short nap in her Key Worker’s arms. My usually happy and hungry baby hadn’t eaten or drunk a thing all afternoon and of course, just to add insult to injury, she burst into tears the minute that I picked her up, crying out with a look of sadness and confusion on her gorgeous tiny face. I know this is an all too common scenario, not unique to me or Summer but a situation that unfolds for thousands of kids and their parents at the nursery drop off every single day. It’s not fun for anyone, least of all when as a highly sensitive mum of highly sensitive children, the experience becomes difficult to shrug off.
Last night I opened my journal and I wrote down 30 of the wildest dreams that I want to manifest for my life. I was inspired to do this exercise after listening to a podcast about how writing our dreams down with pen and paper and then taking actionable steps towards them can actually help to make our dreams a reality.
It’s taken me almost a year to put this story together, to put into words one of the most profound experiences of my life and also one of the most personal. I’ve started writing and re-writing it a hundred times, unsure of the details to include or keep private and unsure of how to tell a story with a million parts and details without writing a whole book. From preparing for a home birth, to confronting previous birth trauma and then experiencing profound joy, giving birth at home was, and is, one of the most significant moments of my life. In sharing my birth story(s) I hope to inspire other women to consider home birth if they want to but more importantly I hope to inspire people to talk about birth with a more open dialogue. To talk about the good and the bad. To talk about all the choices and options and to help women believe in themselves and their bodies and to rid themselves of doubt, worry and feelings of failure.
I’m writing you another letter because that’s what I find helps me when I’m feeling sad and heavy-hearted, as I am tonight. We’re so similar, you and me, with our sensitivities and our emotions. We feel things deeply and strongly and that’s a beautiful thing my sweet girl. I struggle sometimes to feel the way I do, to feel every ounce of your emotion and pain as if it were my own and to feel intensely sad about sad things. I sometimes wish I could switch off my overthinking brain and things might be easier, more black and white and more straightforward, but then, I wouldn’t be me, would I?
Back in December 2018, I made a set of 5 New Year’s resolutions and vowed to make this year the year I actually stick to them and make some progress towards my personal goals. I set these goals for myself with good intentions and reflected for a long time on what I wanted to “achieve” by doing them. Whilst I wouldn’t say I’ve had a total transformation in the first 3 months of 2019, I’ve certainly kept these resolutions in the forefront of my mind more than ever before, have discussed them with friends on an ongoing basis and have made some positive steps towards them, even if it doesn’t feel like enough (the story of my life…I’m learning).
Two weeks ago we hosted a party for Jasmine’s 3rd birthday. It was small, her first solo party, with her closest and most familiar friends which seemed the right decision for a child who can be highly sensitive. I’ll be honest, the thought of her bursting into tears during “happy birthday” was a daily worry for me for weeks in advance! Planning a birthday party for a sensitive child is one thing but planning a “low waste” and “plastic free” party is quite another. Before I dive in to how we pulled this off, I need to put the usual disclaimer. This is not a judgement call on anyone who has hosted a party done differently because I firmly believe that all kid’s parties are planned in love and until a few months ago, I wouldn’t have even considered the waste implications that a party could have.
“We make billions of products that last 5 minutes out of materials that last for a lifetime.” – unknown.
Single use plastics are just that, designed for a single use, simply to then be thrown away, realistically not recycled and existing in landfill more or less forever. Plastic cups, straws, balloons, party bag fillers, table confetti….they bring a smile to a child’s face for a few minutes but once that excitement has worn off, they are thrown away, except that as I’m learning more and more, “away” is not a place that really exists at all.
My journey to reducing waste and living a “low waste” life is a long and hard one. It is full of complexities and challenges and I’m often left feeling more disheartened and sad than I am hopeful and uplifted. Then I’m reminded that we as individuals need to be the change we want to see in the world and also be a role model for this change for our children. I’ve already started teaching Jasmine about plastic because her generation are going to need to be change makers too. I want her (and Summer) to know that looking after the planet we live on should be a priority but that it is also a joy. I want her to know that her actions can make a difference and that change starts at home.
So with that in mind, I set myself a task to try and plan and pull off a birthday party for Jasmine that avoided (as far as possible) disposable and single use plastics, with an effort to reduce waste and rise to the challenge of being more environmentally aware. I really do believe that every little helps and one less bag of rubbish sitting in a landfill site is indeed a job well done.
Here are the steps we took to reduce our party waste:
I banned balloons: call me a party pooper and maybe I am one but balloons, despite them being a favourite of Jasmine’s did not make an appearance at her party. Balloons are a party classic, of course, a symbol of the birthday celebration and an item guaranteed to entertain a bunch of 3 year olds too. Balloons however, are in essence a single use plastic. They are sold in a plastic bag (straight to landfill) and when the balloons eventually pop and are thrown away, that’s it too. Balloon scraps are very harmful to wildlife and although biodegradable balloons are available, we just did without entirely! I was worried, unnecessarily, that Jasmine would ask for balloons or that the party would be lacking without them but I don’t think it made one bit of difference…other than to the Earth!
So how did we decorate instead?
Decorations were made from reusable materials such as card or cloth as to avoid the plastic wrapped foil banners I’d bought in previous years. We borrowed birthday party banners from friends and also bought fresh Spring flowers (in brown paper) to decorate the tables. The village hall came fitted with loads of fairy lights and we laid the tables with party food. Again, I worried it wouldn’t be atmospheric enough or that the room would look bare but it didn’t. The people made the atmosphere more than any set of decorations would and we now have a set of party banners we can use at any occasion…no need to buy single use ones ever again.
The party food was where we struck our biggest challenge for sure. We all know how difficult it is to buy food plastic free in the UK but we did take some steps to minimise the waste as best we could, aiming for progress not perfection. Firstly, we tried not to over cater in an effort to minimise food waste and knowing that most toddlers only nibble anyway before diving into the cake. We planned a few savoury bites such as wraps, sandwiches, vegan sausage rolls and some crisps. Then we had veggie sticks with hummus (not home made admittedly…maybe next year), fruit and vegan chocolate cake. I bought plastic free fruit and veggies such as carrots, peppers, watermelon, oranges and pineapple rather than being tempted by strawberries and grapes in plastic boxes. For drinks we offered apple juice (one large recyclable carton) or water for the kids and glass bottled soft drinks and tea/coffee for parents. We took along some compostable food waste bags for any throw away food and packed up left overs to take home too.
Plastic cups and plates were a no no for me but this did present a challenge. Kids party plates and cups are certainly a convenience item and also a safe one, with nothing at risk of being broken but unless paper plates are cleaned before being recycled, they are likely to end up in landfill too. Whats more, even when I did find paper plates for sale, they were of course wrapped in single use plastic which is exactly what I wanted to avoid. I came across several blogs that suggested borrowing tableware from friends but we ended up just braving the “real” plates and glasses that the venue provided and hoping that with a little parental help, the kids would manage not to break anything. I’m so pleased this worked because it really was zero waste and saved me a lot of money forking out for reusable bamboo plates.
What about party bags? Ah, the party bag. We found a brilliant company called, “plastic free party bags” who offer and delivered a fantastic service. In an effort to avoid the millions of throw away items and plastic party bags given out every single weekend across the UK they offer sustainable, fairtrade, vegan and plastic free alternatives. We ordered a few bits for each child including some vegan chocolate buttons, a pan-pipe whistle, some wildflower seeds and an animal mask to colour in. We received some lovely compliments from our guests about these bags and would use this company again in a heartbeat! We did pay substantially more than we would have done going for supermarket party bag fillers but the zero waste element and being able to support a small business was well worth it for us. Please do check them out!
And that’s just about it! We did of course create some waste…mostly napkins, some crisp packets, cupcake cases and paper towels from the bathroom but overall, I’m so pleased with what we achieved and definitely feel that we significantly reduced our waste and avoided a huge amount of plastic. I also showed myself that with a lot of hard work, determination and a little creativity, that I could pull off a lovely and successful birthday party for Jasmine that didn’t in any way feel lacking in celebratory spirit and for that, I am pretty proud of myself.
Today you turn 3 years old and I find myself repeating, “I can’t believe it,” over and over again. I’m sorry if all the birthday excitement from me has seemed a little crazy but for me, as your Mummy, your birthday is a day of huge significance. Your birth day was the day that I became a Mother and my whole world changed in that moment. Not only that but your birthday is a celebration of you, of all your achievements this past year and the first day in a new chapter of exciting things to come.
A year ago, at just 2, you were a little person with your own thoughts, ideas and preferences and a year on, whilst so much of that is still the very essence of you, there’s also been a shift this year. Some days it feels as if you’ve grown up two years this year, not just one, because the transformation in you is just too big to fathom. Now, you are even more able to do things for yourself. Whether it’s helping yourself to food, taking your own milk from the fridge, using the big toilet, turning on and off the tv or the latest skill…doing your own hair clips, your determination for independence and, “I want to do it by myself,” attitude is actually very inspiring.
Back in June last year you became a big sister to Summer and I think, although you couldn’t say it as such, your world got a little bit turned upside down. We went through some tricky patches, me losing my patience, you adapting to change and I think it’s fair to say things were tricky. There were times, if I’m really honest with you my sweet Jasmine, that I’ve found this year of parenting really tricky. “Age 2-3″ has certainly had its ups and downs. The demands of two children, very little sleep and a feisty toddler (that’s you) have at times driven me to the point where I have wanted to scream. Don’t be sad reading that because it’s not anything you did wrong, not at all. It’s just been hard work and many times I felt out of my depth, not knowing what to do for the best for either of us. ‘Two” definitely hasn’t been terrible but it certainly has been tricky and I think that’s OK for me to admit.
So whilst that sounds all dark and gloomy, it’s not supposed to be! In a million ways we’ve had an amazing year too. We’ve laughed together, danced together and played together for hours. Your unique soul has shone brighter than ever before with your personality and interests revealing themselves to us more each day. Of course we still have our moments here and there but I’m pretty sure the fog has lifted in recent months and in that shift we’ve found a new ease and a new rhythm together…even without your day time nap!
Now you’re 3 whole years old and I’m more in love with you than ever, of course. I think i’ll be saying that even when you’re 30 years old too and imagine the letter I’ll have to write then! Jasmine, my sweet, kind, sensitive, funny, beautiful, curious girl, here are a few of my favourite things about you now on the day that you’re turning 3:
I love the way you ask questions, all day everyday, about everything. Your desire for knowledge and your desire to understand the world is amazing. You ask me what day it is, where we’re going today, what Daddy is doing, what Grandma is wearing, what’s wrong with Summer, who we saw yesterday, what’s so-and-so’s brother called, what can you have for a snack, did I see that, did I see this, are we going there, what’s that what’s that what’s that?
I love the way you have “best friends” now and although the best friend, changes each day, I can tell that your friendships mean a lot to you already. You missed your friends when we were away in Israel for a month, you look forward to seeing them talk about your adventures together at Nursery. Your friends cheer you up, spur you on and bring a smile to your face and it’s such a joy to see.
“Girls are the best,” is your mantra and you tell me at least 5 times a day, sometimes adding, “not boys” onto the end, to which I add that we do like boys too because, equality, and all that. I love that you have a strong female identity and in a world where you may still have to fight if not for your own equality, then for the equality of girls around the world, I’m going to let you keep repeating this mantra for as long as you want to.
You are an amazing big sister to Summer. I know it hasn’t always been easy and it still isn’t. I know Mummy carries Summer on her hip all day long and pays close attention to her at meal times and bath time. I know I’m not there for you like I was when it was just us but Jasmine, you are so kind to her and so caring. You soothe her when she’s sad and your words make her feel better. You only have to be in the room with Summer and she’s happier. You find sharing me difficult at times but you also understand it deeply, that she needs me too and I guess that’s why it hurts you. Sometimes you’ll say, “Mummy, you need to give Summer a cuddle,” and in those moments, I’m so grateful for your wisdom. Summer is so lucky to have you as her big sister, she really is.
I love the way you only wear dresses now and have done every day for at least 6 months. You choose your own outfits every day and strongly reject any suggestion that doesn’t involve a “pretty dress.” You love pink, princesses, jewellery, high heels and hair clips and love a soak in a hot, deep bath at the end of every day. That’s my girl! You embrace your body and love to dance in front of the mirror declaring body positive statements about yourself with pure and delightful self-confidence. Please, do this forever.
You’ve inherited creativity from Daddy‘s side of the family although your musicality comes from me! There’s few things you love more than art and being creative. You can spend hours playing with play dough, drawing, painting and making things and our current prediction is that you’ll be creative when you’re older, too. We flit between that and CEO of a major company, you know, because you just love to be the boss! When you’re not busy with your arts and crafts, you’re usually dancing or singing spinning around or tip-toeing like a ballerina.
You’ve got a sweet tooth and love all things cake, chocolate and biscuits which of course we only give you in extreme moderation! “I want a snack from the snack cupboard” is possibly your most used phrase of all time followed by, “no, not that one….a special treat.” Once again, it’s Daddy you can thank for this habit! You really do love your food though and your latest favourite is pistachio nuts! You are beginning to understand your identity as a vegan and what that means to you and our family. I can’t wait to continue this journey together.
Happy birthday my sweet girl. You are my absolute joy, every single day. I love you to the moon and the stars and back, or, “this much,” as we say with arms stretched out wide. You are simply incredible and I honestly cannot wait to get this next year started. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be our best yet.
Time changes our children at a remarkable rate and time replaces our memories that were once so vivid with ones that have now become a little hazy, much to our disbelief. Time changes the appearance of our children too. Longer hair, longer legs, a bigger smile. It fulfils for us a wish we made when they were babies, when we could only begin to imagine how they’d be as they grew and what a delight this change is to behold.
As our children approach their next birthday and become a year older, it becomes harder to remember them before, with the newer version of them forever replacing the older one even though really, they’re still the same. Layer upon layer builds up, each day providing new joys, new memories and new things to absorb. Do we have endless capacity to remember each and every change?
Photos and videos we took provide a heartwarming and beautiful way to remember times gone by yet also make us question how we let these moments pass and how, maybe, we didn’t realise then just how magical they were. Or maybe we did? We document first steps, first words, first birthdays, first shoes and first moments of everything in an attempt to lock these moments in time forever because otherwise, they just vanish. We can’t trust that our memories alone will stand the test of time in years to come.
Time is a constant in our world and it is always moving forward, never stopping. A second will always be as long as a second has always been and a day, the same length too. Yet on some days time seems to stretch and drag and on others it races us to the finish line. Time reminds us that nothing, be it good or bad, lasts forever.
Time confuses our minds into feeling that the numbers can’t be true. “How can that have happened a year ago?” we ask, our minds searching to make sense of this confusion. Our brains scramble that this week marks the start of year three of parenting yet day one feels like yesterday and in an instant we are stunned by how much time has passed, the proof being the child stood before us.
Time passing is a reminder of the need to slow down, to pause and to breathe and to take things in just as they are but then we remember that “slowing down” is simply a perception too because time waits for no man. Memories don’t stay as vivid as we believe they will. Not all memories anyway. The details slip away. What age they did that and what age they did this. Some of it is foggy now, not that it matters I suppose, as long as the memory itself still exists. It’s just scary how passing time makes us forget, isn’t it?
Our children are constantly growing, blooming and changing at a far greater rate than we are, even though we grow as they do. Our child today, at nearly 3 is the same child she was at 2 because she was destined to be this way but who she is now was impossible to know as time doesn’t allow us to truly see into the future but just to live project forward using imagination.
Time makes things appear differently depending from where, or when, we are viewing them. Our once “so grown up” two year old now seems so baby-like to look back on. So small, so sweet and so young. At the time she’d never been as big as in that moment and so in that moment, that’s how she was. Now we are in a different time and therefore my view of that same child is warped and we are confronted with feelings of longing for that once so small child.
This childhood. This precious time of which parents so often speak. It is going so quickly though the speed of time has never changed. It is yet another perception. An interfering emotion. A desire to be able to hold on a little tighter to feelings and moments so that time doesn’t dissolve them as it so cruelly does and perhaps a desire too to speed things up sometimes, the long days, the hard bits, the not-so-fun moments.
We long for a way to be able to hold moments in time forever. That cuddle with arms wrapped round wide, that kiss on the soft and still chubby cheeks, that sweet and curious voice. We don’t want to forget that sentence that made us chuckle or that question that in it’s innocence made us momentarily remember childhood ourselves. Time allows our children to learn, to make sense of the world a little bit more each day. Time gives them the ability to experience life, moment by moment.
Will time allow us to remember it all, to lock it up forever and have it all to look back on? The sacred details of the most wonderful moments that are a struggle to recall nowadays. Time often seems to be rushing us and it’s hard to keep up. It is the most precious commodity, each day only providing a finite amount, urging us in this quiet way to learn to live fully.
Time gifts us so much and is the gift that keeps on giving. Every day we are granted another day to Mother, to parent, to love and to laugh and to marvel at the funny games time plays with our minds. Every day we are given 86,400 seconds to use as we please. Every day our children live so presently as we, the adults, dart back and forth between past, present and future, forgetting so often that the only time that is truly ever guaranteed, is now.
Is raising vegan children wrong and abusive? This was the question put to the nation on Good Morning Britain this morning.