Wishing our amazing son, David John Calvert, a very Happy 2nd Birthday today!
Every birthday is a milestone, a time of new beginnings and of reflecting on how far we’ve come. But this one more so than ever. Our family is complete, there are no more children on the cards for Phil and me, so the second birthday of our youngest son marks the end of the baby years for us. Done and dusted.
This is pretty momentous for me. Anyone who has read my earlier posts will know that I am not much of a baby person. Newborn Valley is not a time I relish, and although it was easier second time around it was still incredibly tough going. Cherish every moment? No, you’re alright thanks. I’ll enjoy what I can and survive the rest.
With both of my children the first year has been about survival and the second year has been about recovery. I had months of CBT when Edward was a year old, to tackle pre-existing and new mental health issues. I have spent the last twelve months building myself back up after the first year of David’s life, a year which saw him undergo two open heart surgeries. Thanks to some excellent therapy, a year of meditation classes and 50mg of Sertraline I am feeling the healthiest I ever have.
Not that the last four and a half years of parenthood have been a hellish experience, far from it. We have squeezed every last drop of enjoyment out of the early years. We have had so many journeys and adventures, and the boys have taught us both so much. It is an absolute privilege to be their mother.
When Edward turned 2 I was already in the early stages of pregnancy with David. When David was born Edward started at Raglan Road Preschool Playgroup – one day before David was born in fact! Now my big boy is in the Reception class at school and my baby is starting Playgroup sessions in November. All parents tell you that the time flies by, but my goodness it feels like minutes since I was picking Edward up from Playgroup with David in his baby carrier, setting him down on the floor so his big brother could say hello and show him that day’s paintings. Watching David toddle in to his first session sporting his Playgroup T-shirt is going to be quite a moment.
Motherhood has been nothing like I expected, far worse than I expected and better than anything I could have imagined. Certainly no one expects to have a baby with a heart defect, but the everyday things are often surprising, challenging and delightful too. I knew I would love to read to my children, but I did not realise how I would grow to detest Thomas the Tank Engine. I thought I would steer clear of children’s television, but it turns out that Fireman Sam is bloomin’ hilarious! I have used all manner of parenting techniques, from baby whispering to controlled crying to babywearing to bedsharing to gentle parenting to time outs to lying on the floor exhausted while they perform surgery on me. All of the cliches that sounded trite and hopelessly unscientific when I started on this journey turned out to be absolutely true: all children need is love, know your own child and you won’t go far wrong.
Throughout all of our parenting adventures our friends and family have been there to support us and I have no idea how I would go about thanking them enough. Far too many people undertake this journey alone, without a network of support, and I cannot imagine how hard that must be. We have always felt surrounded by love and understanding, and I hope we have been able to give some of that back.
One friend in particular deserves a mention as she is not here with us anymore. The beautiful Jane Hanley was an enormous support to me, from the moment Edward was born until lung disease took her from us forever. I cannot believe she is not here to see David turn 2 and to celebrate this milestone with us. She is sorely missed, and always will be.
We celebrated David’s birthday yesterday with a party for some of his friends, and the theme was, of course, Adventure. It seemed appropriate, to symbolise the adventures we have been on as parents, the adventures our boys have already undertaken, and most importantly the adventures we want them to know they can embark upon, with the world at their feet. In an entertaining twist, the party venue became unavailable with 30 minutes to go, so we swiftly moved the entire event (3 car loads of gear) to the grandparents’ house. A couple of years ago this would have induced in me a meltdown on a dramatic scale, but yesterday I took a breath and got on with it, and it was one of the loveliest parties we have held. A reminder of how far I have come on a personal journey where anxiety has been an unwelcome companion.
A final special mention to my wonderful husband, Phil – those of you who know him will know that I am not exaggerating when I say he is my rock. We have grown as a team these last four and a half years. We have been tested and have risen to each new challenge, and I am so proud of us and of him. We knew we were in for some adventures when we got married nearly nine years ago but my goodness we didn’t know the half of it!
So here we are, about to embark on a new phase of life for all of us. Edward’s school days are underway, I am about to have a lot more time on my hands and already have three or four projects lined up for 2016. Phil is setting his sights on the horizon as always, and David is leaving babyhood behind to launch himself at the world with the vigour for which he is renowned. Another open heart surgery awaits him, but so do many more joyful journeys and experiences.
One of David’s favourite phrases at the moment when he has mastered something tricky is “I did it!” said with the kind of enthusiasm only a 2 year old can muster. He is referring to a puzzle piece or putting on his welly boot. Yet when I hear him shout it, I can only think of everything he has already overcome in his short but momentous time on earth.
You did it David! We all did. Happy Birthday beautiful boy! Here’s to new adventures!