Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Back to Earth With A Bump

It's Sunday afternoon. My hair and clothes are still covered with a fine smattering of sand, courtesy of my lunchtime walk on the beach with Green Eyed Man. There is a smile on my face. I go to pick up the boys from their father's with an unusual spring in my step.

Upon entry into his apartment the typical chaos ensues. Bags are still being jammed full of toys that simply cannot be left behind. Clothes are being wedged into my handbag as an afterthought. There is much phaffing and palava and hyperactivity. Finally, everything that needs to be shunted on a bi-weekly basis between two homes is safely contained within an assortment of bags. Ex and I shuffle behind our exuberant offspring to the lift, laden down with baggage like a couple of prize mules.

There is the usual commotion when we get to the car. Daddy is temporarily forgotten in the fight to the death for who will gain ownership of the car seat behind mummy for our 10 minute journey. The adults might be making every effort to be on their best behaviour but the boys have no such intentions. I try to remain calm and admire ex's restraint in not raising his voice. The last thing he wants is to spoil what has been a really fun weekend with a rant right at the last minute.

Finally, after 10 long minutes of negotiation and arbitration that makes the Middle East crisis seem like a walk in the park, the boys are finally battened down and we are ready to head home. Which is of course the exact moment that each boy demands a series of hugs, kisses, secret handshakes and silly walks to prolong that actual moment of goodbye. I can't imagine that leaving daddy is something that they will ever find easy.

We drive off slowly - the boys windows are down and daddy jogs alongside the car to the end of the road, throwing last minute kisses and generally lampooning about and kicking his heels to a chorus of giggles and much applause. I internally commend us both for dealing with this situation as well as we are able and feel a quiet comfort in how well the boys have adapted as a result.

We turn the corner.

And Captain Underpants begins to cry.

"I already miss my daddy so much. And I've left my special Bakugon and I really wanted to remember to bring it home and now I have forgotten it and I won't see it for days. It's just too hard to remember everything. I don't want to have two houses - I don't. It's just too hard."

My little self-congratulatory balloon instantly deflates. It doesn't really matter how well ex and I are handling this. Captain Underpants is right in his undertones. It is still shit.

He continues to cry. Johnny Drama looks on with a face full of concern.

"We have a new house now mummy. I know you said you and daddy were unhappy in the old house. But we have a new house now mummy. We can all be happy in the new house. Daddy too. That would be a good choice, wouldn't it? Wouldn't it, mama?"

Yes it would my love. Yes it would.

How did this all get so fucked up? And how did I successfully achieve the one thing I promised I would never do...break my boys' hearts.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sex Is Back On The Menu

Diets have never worked for me. The more I try to deny myself the pleasure of chocolate, the more fixated I become on having it. Obsess about it. I have such an addictive personality that the rule of little and often really works much better for me. And it's why I don't tend to restrict the consumption of sweets, chocolate or ice cream for the boys. When they were younger, sugar was never on the menu unless in the form of fruit. Now I am happy for them to have treats every day - as long as they have eaten three healthy meals and predominantly healthy snacks then they can have a little ice cream for desert every day if they want it. And it seems to be working for them at least. Some days they want it. Some days they prefer strawberries. They seem to be developing a healthy attitude to food and an understanding of the 'everything in moderation' principle.

So the fact that I have been on a diet - more like a famine really - from sex and now the opportunity to...well, 'eat some chocolate' again on a regular basis has suddenly presented itself, well, of course it is all I can think about.

My relationship with sex is complicated. My mum was very old school. No sex before marriage. If you sleep around you are a hussy and a tramp and no man will ever respect you. She married her second husband when I was 14 and he was an archetypal sex predator. Without going into details, this was not an experience in my formative years that was going to lead to a healthier attitude on adult sexual relationships.

Fast forward twenty years and introduce two high risk pregnancies. Not only was any form of penetration advised against, I was also advised not to have orgasms. For months. And of course, once I was denied something it became something that was much more top of mind. This situation wasn't assisted at all by the pregnancy hormones and increased blood flow raging through my body, which only served to heighten desire, not limit it. It certainly drove a wedge between ex and I. Any form of intimacy was deemed too dangerous to even contemplate. Part of me felt for him. Knew that if I was a better wife that the odd hand job or blow job wouldn't go amiss. But another part of me felt so resentful. Here I was stuck on bed rest, day after day. Consumed with anxiety. Willing each and every day to be over. Maybe he wasn't getting any sex - but he could leave the house whenever he wanted, go out to dinner, go for a run, have a wank. Whenever he wanted. I knew it wasn't his fault but still, I was angry.

My body rebelled against the no orgasm rule and I began to have erotic dreams ending in furtive orgasms on a regular basis. I would wake up in a sweat. Overwhelmed with fear. My body still pulsing. My uterus still contracting. It was so frustrating. I was trying so hard to protect my baby and my body seemed determined to increase the odds of potentially stimulating premature labour against my wishes. Not only that, but if I was going to have an orgasm it seemed a little unfair that I was never awake to fully appreciate it. It was a torturous few months.

Of course, once I had the baby, sex was the last thing on my mind. Every touch or act of simple affection felt like an invasion of my personal space. Just. Leave. Me. Alone. I couldn't bear anyone to touch me. Which confused me, because I have always been a naturally tactile and demonstrative person. I felt changed beyond recognition by becoming a mother. I didn't recognise who I was anymore. And the resentment and anger I had harboured during pregnancy became guilt. God, I was a crap wife and a crap mum. Nothing seemed to be coming easy to me - none of it felt natural or instinctual and I felt totally lost and alone and without any sexual identity whatsoever.

So sex was really complicated for the three years in which we conceived and I delivered Captain Underpants and Johnny Drama. And just as I was starting to feel human again. Starting to feel that there was light at the end of the tunnel and that I, at least, was on my way back to being normal again ex dropped the bombshell. He didn't love me anymore. And from that moment on he put up a wall between us that not even the sexiest of underwear or the most sexual of proposals could successfully scale.

So it has been a while. A long while. And I have missed it.

And now all of a sudden there is a man on the scene who is incredibly sexy. And I am consumed with desire 24/7, in a way that doesn't feel appropriate for a mother of two young children. He is being very attentive - taking me to lunch, out to dinner, to the movies, to improv comedy. We go to the same dance class together (where we originally met). I have even given him a free workout on the powerplate, at his request. And I am happy to go along with all of it. But really all I want him to do is to take me to bed.

We are spending the day together today. And he has offered to cook me breakfast tomorrow morning: eggs benedict, bloody marys and coffee. I can feel myself working up an appetite just thinking about it...roll on 1 o'clock. See you all on Monday.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Good Things Come In Threes...Or Do They?

Maybe it is just 3rd time lucky.

You are son #3 - who just turned four today.

You were the most laid back, happy and congenial baby on the planet for the first two years. I was desperate for a daughter and, in all honesty, it was a real blow when you popped out sporting a swollen and engorged penis that impressed the pediatrician and had your father puffing his chest and muttering, 'chip off the old block' to anyone who passed comment.

Despite mourning the daughter that I was never destined to have, you had me wrapped around my little finger from day one. You even deigned to humour me a little, by loving the colour pink, being obsessed with cuddly toys and preferring dolls to Thomas. You were a chunky little bruiser, filled with affection for all, and your cheeky little smile, so reminiscent of my sister, captivated me completely.

Then you turned three. Oh what a year we've just had.

I should have guessed I was heading for trouble. You somehow missed the Terrible Two installation v2007 and remained your cheery, engaging self with hardly a tantrum in sight. Then you seemed to hit three with a vengeance. If ever there was a 3 year old on steroids, you were it.

Tantrums, obstinence, stubborness, retaliation, aggression...just a few of the desirable characteristics you have concentrated on perfecting. You have the confidence to take me on, head to head, on a daily basis. And it's been an exhausting process to step up on my parenting skills, rise to the challenge, and hang on by the skin of my teeth to remain the victor in every battle presented.

But it's impossible not to love you, heart and soul. Because if you remind me of anyone, it has to be me.

Irrepressible. Endlessly seeking to be the centre of attention. Overly demonstrative. Flirtatious. Like a little bull in a china shop with your barrel chest and solid little thighs. The demeanour of a miniature thug, with a heart of gold that has an empathy beyond your years. I am constantly amused, watching from the sidelines, as you spend your days trying to win friends and influence people, through means fair or foul.

Happy 4th Birthday Johnny Drama. My baby. My boy.

God, you're a handful. But I love you more than I can ever say.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Return of the Green Eyed Man

So never let it be said that I don't take good intentioned advice to heart and act upon it.

Following my post Update on the Man Front, where I lamented the fact that all the nice men I have met in the past 3 months have inexplicably fallen by the wayside without a backward glance, I decided to text The Man I Left With a Kiss and call Green Eyed Man.

I didn't really need much encouragement, in all honesty. I'm not very good at walking away from what seems like unfinished business. I received an instant reply to my text to The Man I Left With a Kiss - a polite but brief brush off, to all intents and purposes. Hmph. However, my phone message to GEM was a little more productive, prompting a very enthusiastic call back and the arrangement of our first 'date' just over 2 weeks ago.

He suggested we go to the zoo. I can't say I was over enthused. It has been the scene of many a stressed trip with the boys where I have been tempted, on every occasion, to try and find a key to the nearest empty 'enclosure' and just leave them there with all their better behaved animal counterparts. I laughingly joked that I would be taking the trip seriously and would be appropriately attired. (Which in my case meant being armed with a big stick to ward off the hoards of feral offspring rampaging within 10ft of me, thwarting my attempt to enjoy my child-free day.)

Little did I know that he took the joke a little more literally.

So I was a little disconcerted when he came to pick me up looking like a silver haired version of Crocodile Dundee. I didn't know whether to be impressed by his sense of humour and apparent ease of humiliating himself in public (on a first date no less). Or grab a can of mace, in case I had inadvertently arranged a day out with a man released for a day for good behaviour from the local mental hospital. Good lord, I thought, reaching for my darkest of sunglasses in an attempt to promote maximum obscurity, maybe I should have tried a bit harder to find that stick.

Our mooch around the zoo was pretty uneventful. I faked excitement over seeing the bears, because I didn't want to seem completely uninterested, but really I was quite unimpressed with the whole excursion. If I had a penny for every time I have visited the zoo over the past 6 years I am confident all my financial concerns would be well and truly resolved. GEM was good company but first dates are nerve-wracking enough without being out in broad daylight with a virtual stranger who seemed to have dressed for a Halloween party 8 weeks prematurely. So I remained a little wary.

There was brief excitement - in the literal sense - when I humoured him by riding the carousel, yet couldn't coordinate my limbs in a lady-like fashion when mounting the giant leopard and ended up flashing an eyeful of lace covered crotch to the grandad on the ostrich in front. Not my most dignified moment on a first date. It did occur to me once seated that I could have attempted an elegant side saddle manoeuvre. This would certainly would have put less strain on the fabric of my dress, which started the ride stretched to capacity mid-thigh and then proceeded to inch its way further up to my waist with every rotation. Thankfully the ride was mercifully short or else the date might have ended prematurely in an arrest for indecent exposure.

Needless to say, GEM and grandad didn't appear to be too offended by my skirt's apparent reluctance to perform its job in covering my vast expanse of (spider veined) thigh. And I was all the more grateful for having the good sense to appear somewhat incognito behind my oversized dark shades.

After the zoo GEM offered to take me to dinner. Free food? Yes please! And then, possibly due to the introduction of the alcohol factor, the date started to get more interesting. It is just SO much easier to be entertained (and entertaining) after chugging two glasses of red on a virtually empty stomach. I started to relax a little and commence my first date interrogation technique. Who is the real man inside the Crocodile Dundee costume? I was keen to glean an insight into the man masquarading as Chicago's version of a living Steve Irwin. Well, it turns out he doesn't live on a funny farm. But he does live way out in the suburbs, which many city folk would consider just as dubious. He is divorced, has two teenage sons, is employed, goes to church. He was approached a couple of years ago by an agent and now also does TV commercials and works as an extra in movies. He loves Monty Python and can recite almost any of their sketches or movies that you care to mention.

He is funny and charming, incredibly easy to talk to and very easy on the eye.

The downside?

Well, a) he is American

And b) he is AMERICAN

I know. What are the chances?

After a very entertaining dinner we went for a stroll and ended up in a bar. 'Do you play pool?' he enquired. 'Of course' I blatantly lied and then proceeded to humiliate myself by carving up the billiard table with the cue and mis-hitting every ball. I didn't really mind looking like a fool so much - better that he is under no illusion from the start. But my inability to actually hit, much less pot a ball, was creating the longest ever game of pool in the history of mankind. So when he spontaneously grabbed me in a massive bear hug, I was grateful for the diversion.

And then he kissed me and, for all intents and purposes, that brought an imminent end to the showcasing of my pool playing talents. If I had demonstrated any coordination or even a hint of ability prior to the kiss, well it all went well and truly out of the window after. 'I'm a little distracted right now.' I mumbled, as an explanation for the deterioration in my concentration. So then he kissed me again. A little longer this time. And with a little more intent.

There was a little voice in my head saying, 'whatever you do Nicola, maintain a veneer of sophistication and decorum at all times...'.

Despite the well-intentioned advice, I am not confident that an illusion of sophistication was successfully maintained. It's hard to be sure, but I think if my mother was the judge she would not agree that decorum is demonstrated by kissing passionately to the point of virtually being horizontal over a pool table, in the back of a bar. The little voice in my head was on a losing battle with my body - which instantly regressed to primal instincts alone.

Despite the voice in my head shouting with horror Oh For God's Sake Behave Yourself Woman! You Are A Mother! You Have a Reputation to Upkeep, my body continued to do the equivalent of sticking its fingers in its ears and repeating LA LA LA LA LA. Not listening to you. Can't hear a word you are saying. You might consider yourself a dignified woman of the world, but there's a rampant teenager in hiding in here...and she wants out. So do us all a favour and shut up for a minute so she can just enjoy herself.

Most of the time I am pretty sensible. I have the pretense of acting like a grown-up down to a fine art in most situations. But try telling that to my crotch, which had morphed into a state-of-the-art heat seeking missile and nothing - particularly not my own conscience - was going to thwart its mission of fusing with the opposing (and activated) missile in his groin.

To avoid going into finer detail we managed to extricate ourselves from the pool table and walk hand in hand to his car. Needless to say, it wasn't just my face that was on fire. We repeated the performance in the car park for 45 minutes before driving home and perfecting our dry-humping technique on my doorstep. And then the voice of reason in my head finally won the ongoing argument with my body and I sent him home.

Since then we have seen each other several times (reassuringly on subsequent dates all costume attire has been left at home). I am trying so hard to be casual and frivolous and just enjoy the attention, but it's hard because he is just so damn lovely. Sexy and superficial I can handle. Sexy and nice is just not what I am looking for right now.

But it looks like I might have found it anyway.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fight For Freedom

I am writing this post on behalf of a friend. An incredibly brave woman in the midst of a traumatic fight for her own freedom. I have never met Yummy Mammy in person but we share much in common: we are both single mothers, we both totally adore our children, we uprooted our lives to follow our beloved husbands to another life in another country. And now the marriage has broken down we are trapped by our circumstances and unable to go home, to move back to our family and friends, with our children.

I cannot write this post coherently. Just thinking about this subject, about our shared circumstances, brings me out in a cold sweat. My hands are sweating profusely due to the tempest of emotions it evokes: fear, vulnerability, rage, frustration, heartache and longing. My heart begins to pound yet my chest is utterly constricted. I just want to crumple and weep with the overwhelmingly helplessness that I feel.

How is it that we are in this situation? How is it that two strong, decisive, independent women are being forced to live in a country by the men that no longer love us - because these men are the father of our children?

I live in Chicago and have done for the past 9 years. My husband and I came here - full of excitement - at the start of a 2 year adventure in July of 2000. After a rocky start my ex's job suddenly started going great guns and we both decided to stay a couple more years. Then ex's career sky rocketed and the previously shared intention of moving home became a bone of contention between us. I agreed to stay another couple of years and in that time both of my sons were born here. Although that fact is immaterial. The fact of the matter is that, under Illinois law, if parents separate then neither parent has the right to remove the children from the state without the expressed written permission of the other. This law comes into effect after the children have been residence in the state for 6 months and 1 day and is irrespective of their nationality or the nationality of their parents (both the father and I are British).

So here we are today. Ex is happily separated from me, loving his job, running marathons every spare second that he has, seeing his boys on a very regular basis and living a full and happy life, with no intention of returning to England in the foreseeable future. He is a great dad and does not want to live in a different country to his children. He wants to see them and continue to be a part of their lives as much as he has time to. That I understand.

It doesn't help me much though, does it? I do not want to be here. I have not wanted to be here for years in fact. But unless I choose to leave my children here in Chicago and go back to live in England without them, then I have no choice in the matter. I can choose to go the route of Yummy Mammy and start a lengthy legal process, which can take up to 2 years to finalise, has no guarantee of the outcome - oh and will cost anywhere up to $300,000+. Which, quite frankly, scares the shit out of me.

I think most of the time I survive by living in denial. It is quite easy to keep both physically and mentally occupied with a 6 year old and 4 year old to look after. Most of my days are filled with the day-to-day minutia, which successfully distracts me from dwelling too much on the fact that I am trapped. Trapped living a life that I don't want to live. 4,000 miles from the people that I want to live my life with. Living my life in limbo, with no immediate control over my future. Just waiting for the time (if it ever comes) that I can move home again and start afresh. Start living my life within my terms and by my rules, with my boys by my side and their father within spitting distance and not an ocean away.

This month is particularly hard. It has been the anniversary of my first son's death and the birthdays of my other two boys. What I wouldn't give to have the boys share their birthday excitement with their grandparents and aunts and uncles. To be able to pop round to my mum or dads for a soothing cuppa, when all the gift buying and party planning is getting a little too much to handle without a fortifying shared mug of rosy-lee. But these simple pleasures are not an option and haven't been for a long, long time. Sometimes I doubt whether they ever will be. Although I cannot bring myself to truly believe that. I have to live in hope that one day this situation will be resolved. That my ex will come to his senses and realise that he can have a great job, run marathons - do what the hell he likes - anywhere in the world, but the only place that I can be at home, be at peace, be happy, is with my family and friends back in the UK.

And I also live in hope that my friend Yummy Mammy also gets to move home. A measly 135 miles from Ireland back to England. To live a life of freedom with her daughter, amongst her family and friends. And to resolve this bitter long drawn out conflict and the source of much emotional trauma with her ex husband.

I am rooting for you, brave strong friend.

Please root for her too by visiting her blog Save One Mammy and supporting her cause. You can also read a more detailed description of her ongoing battle at Heartbroke - Part 2.

This post is part of the Save One Mammy campaign. Mammy is fighting for the permission to leave Ireland together with her English-born daughter and return home to England; something her estranged husband is trying to prevent by all means and for seemingly egotistical reasons only. Parental alienation, unfair hearings and a clear and blatant violation of every EU citizen’s right to free movement are just a few of the hurdles she has to overcome. Please help us to raise awareness and visit her blog to support her in her campaign.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Reason For Celebration - Today of All Days

Hey you

Yep, you - little guy with the tousled hair and permanent scabs on your knees.

Bring those big blue eyes - which explode with light and reveal the purity of your deepest thoughts - over here. Come here and wrap your wiry, long limbs around me. I need to nestle my nose into the nape of your neck and inhale the sweet unmistakable smell of you. Reverently stroke your skin, as soft as gently worn suede and with the impossible iridescence of a deep water pearl.

How did you get to be so big? Grow so strong? What happened to my tiny, 3lb cone-headed new-born - so fragile, yet already so resilient? There has always been a calm certainty about you, a sense that you already know, understand and appreciate far more about the world than I ever will. Guiding me as a mother each and every day. With love and patience, tolerance and generosity. Successfully taming my temper, provoking laughter, creating love, bringing me joy.

I am inspired by your thoughtfulness. Your inately caring nature. Your naturally tendency to share and be mindful of others. Are you sure you're my child?

You are magnificent, my gorgeous boy. Endlessly imaginative, forever intuitive, loving to a fault, playfully affectionate, independently resourceful.

You are my pride and joy.

Happy 6th Birthday Captain Underpants.

May you always want to run around in your underpants, towel secured safely around your neck as a cape, saving the world.

Yes, of course you can go back and play now. And sorry for squeezing you too tight and going a little overboard on the kisses - I know I have a tendency to do that. I just can't help it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Week Of New Beginnings

It's hard to believe the summer is over and both boys are back at school. Johnny Drama joined his brother (finally) at big boy school - it was an unexpectedly emotional moment to see him all togged up in his uniform, school bag in hand, happy as Larry to be joining the world of academia (i.e. nursery). The first day went well. Even the second day went well. By the third day the prospect of having to spend the whole day at school was not so appealing. And of course by the end of the week I had a full blown mutiny on my hands to deal with.

Still, in the tradition of his older brother, according to his new teacher Johnny Drama is just as adept at reserving all his really delightful behavioural traits for home - spitting, hitting, shouting, insolence, deafness and general refusal to do anything on request. At school he has been polite, engaged, enthusiastic, friendly and does what he is told, when he is told to do it. So I have not one, but now two regular little schizophrenics on my hands.

Actually, I guess to give them their due, both boys have transitioned back to school really easily. The only indication that we are still in a period of adjustment is that they are both waking at the ungodly hour of 5am or even earlier and refusing to go back to sleep. One morning last week was particularly fun. Heaven knows what inspired them, but whilst I was busy showering and trying to get ready for the day, they had an ingenious idea:- to wee into their snack bowls containing some dried cereal, rather than use the toilet.

Oh, how we laughed when this little 'game' was discovered by mummy some 20 minutes later, as she was tidying up discarded snack bowls without paying due attention and inadvertently tipped the contents of both bowls down the front of her trousers. It took a few seconds for my brain to comprehend that the source of liquid, causing the soggy cheerios to slide slowly down from my knee to pool attractively at my ankles, wasn't apple juice but actually freshly administered urine.

Following an eruption to rival that of Mt Saint Helen's, I was solemnly informed shouting is no longer acceptable in their room. (A rule which only applies to MY shouting of course.) At which point I was asked to leave the room to calm down and find my 'quiet voice'. As I retreated, rather gobsmacked, over the threshold of the door, the boys promptly shut and locked the door in my face. Hmmm. They soon discovered that this was not the best tactic to employ with an objective of reducing mummy's volume levels.

One of the advantages of Johnny Drama starting at the same school as Captain Underpants is that I am finally getting some feedback on the nursery curriculum and an insight into what they are learning on a daily basis. It has occurred to me, on more than one occasion, that Captain Underpants is quite possibly in training to be a spy or, at the very least, a member of the secret service. There cannot be a child who is as adept at withholding information. Over the past two years, and despite using various probing techniques, it has been impossible to drag any feedback out of him about his day at school. I tell you, it really would be easier to get blood out of a stone. He has had two years of French lessons, yet I have never heard him speak one single, arbitary word of the language. He learns new songs and plays a whole variety of musical instruments, yet refuses to divulge a single piece of information about these new experiences. He really seems to believe that it is none of my business how he spends his day and I should just stop being so bloody nosy.

So yesterday at dinner time was quite a revelation.

"I can speak French now mummy!' exclaims Johnny Drama, with much excitement and pride.

"I can say goodbye. Oh - Wee - Yee - Ha! Goodbye! In French!"

"It's Au Revoir" corrects Captain Underpants, with pitch perfect intonation.

"Yes, that's right. That's just what I said...Oh - Wee - Yee - Ha!! And I can also say hello in French mummy. Bond - Jew! Hello!"

"It's Bonjour....BONJOUR!' interjects a rather riled Captain Underpants.

I am trying so hard not to let the giggles, that are creasing my internal organs into an agonising mush, to make their way up and out of my mouth, that I cannot rely on myself to speak. I grit my teeth and try to compose my face into an expression that resembles an encouraging smile.

"Stand up mummy! Stand up! I have something else to say in French." instructs Johnny Drama.

I stand up.

"SILLY-VOOS!" he yells triumphantly. "Silly-voos mummy! Silly-voos!"

"Assez Vous" corrects Captain Underpants - his voice pained to hear the language abused by such poor pronunciation.

"Yep. Silly-Voos. I know that. I know sit down in French. And hello. And goodbye. I can speak French!' Johnny Drama announces with a flourish.

Then he gets on with eating the remainder of his corn on the cob whilst singing 'One Little Speckled Frog' quietly under his breath, in between mouthfuls. Whilst Captain Underpants and I smile gently and conspiratorially at each other.

Not a bad start, to a new beginning.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

“Sometimes we end up doing what we are capable of whether we like it or not.”

Yesterday was my eldest son's birthday. It is also the anniversary of his death. I can't quite believe it is 7 years ago since his traumatic birth. Since the day that I held him in my arms for the first and last time. Became a mother yet had no baby to take home from hospital. No child to care for. No proof in fact, to most of the world around me, that I was a mother.

But the love that I felt on that day changed me forever. And despite the fact that my son is not physically in my life, the love remains as strong as ever.

I thought it would get easier as time went on but if anything it becomes harder every year. I'm not sure why this is, although I think it is something to do with the fact that I have a far deeper understanding of what I am missing out on through the lives of my two living boys. It's impossible to picture him as being 7. For me he will always be the tiny, tiny baby wrapped in a blanket, lighter than a bag of sugar, sticking his miniature tongue out and grasping my little finger with surprising strength while his life slowly and peacefully ebbed away.

Yesterday I ached with his loss. I sat in the car and listened to 'his song'.

"And the tears come streaming down your face
when you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

And high up above or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
But if you never try you'll never know
just what you're worth

...and I will try to fix you"

I so wish I could have 'fixed' him. I sat in the car, numb with unshed tears, my chest constricted with love and loss. And then I saw it. A cement mixer. With his name on the front. Mack. It trundled slowly past me and finally I started to cry. Then a garbage truck came past. Yet another Mack. Then another cement mixer. Hello my lovely boy. I miss you so much. And I am so sorry if I failed you. Thank you so much for being in my life, however fleeting. I feel so much more love, due to meeting you. My heart will be forever expanded, because it carries you in it.

I slowly started to smile, remembering the intense peace and joy when he was placed in my arms, even though I knew his death was inevitable and imminent. That's what I have to remember, to carry on with life. That's what I have to focus on. There is no other option. Heartache, bitterness and anger will not honour his memory. In those precious moments of his life we shared a powerful bond that no one will ever be able to take away from me. My gorgeous boy. One of my greatest blessings.

Later in the day I went and bought 7 white balloons and also cupcakes. No better way of celebrating a birthday than with balloons and mini mountains of chocolate frosting. On the day that Mack was cremated our friends and family in England each bought a white balloon and released it into the sky. Ex and I did the same on the beach on Chicago. And now it has become our annual tradition. A small comfort. A simple act of remembrance.

I have much in my life to be grateful for. Did I ever think this would happen to me? No of course not. But would I have it any other way? Not if it meant not meeting Mack at all. I would do it again in a heartbeat. I would relive those hours and savour every second.

I think this post really encapsulates how I feel, now time is moving on. How I would love to have the talent to write like this (but then again, I am grateful that I can write at all). This mother buried 2 of her children, 3 years apart and I unashamedly stole the title of her post. This particular paragraph says it all really:

"Yes, it was brutal; but yes, we were capable of getting through it, whether we liked it or not. And I’m okay with just “getting through” those days…can’t really expect much more than that, you know? The trick is, getting through all the rest of the days that follow. All the ones AFTER your loved one dies. How we do that is ultimately our choice. And I choose LIFE. I choose sandy beaches and ice cream cones and long walks and good music and cold beer. And man, am I lucky to be sharing all of these things with the finest mixture of friends and family a girl could ever ask for."