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The stuff the books don’t tell you

Parenting is hard. I’m not going to say its the hardest job in the world because I’m not fighting for my country or running in to burning buildings to save lives but it’s definitely up there. But no person or book can prepare you until you experience it for yourself.

Firstly I want to mention my amazing family and friends. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without them. Having a great support network is vital, especially when adopting. My mum, dad and sister in particular have been amazing. My whole family adore Rae and treat her just like they treat my niece (ie they spoil her rotten!). My sister does the bath and bed routine one night a week so I can go to my exercise class and have a break, which I’m not ashamed to say I need.

If you ask any of my friends which Friends character I’m most like they will say Monica. I love cleaning, it’s on my CV as a hobby. I’ve been caught hoovering my Hoover in the past. Before Rae came to live with me I had to have a baby gate made for the bottom of the stairs. The workman commented that my house was like a show home. That was the last time anyone will ever say that to me. My living room now looks like toys’r’us has thrown up in it. I don’t think I hoovered the upstairs of my house for the first 3 months of her living with me. I find Cheerios everywhere. It’s now second nature to just step over the pots and pans in my kitchen that spend more time on the kitchen floor than they do in the cupboards. Now she’s at nursery I get one day a week to myself and guess what I do. I clean. I clean like I’m expecting the Queen for tea. My friends all say ‘you should use that time to relax and sit on the sofa and catch up on some tv’ which I do. But after I’ve cleaned. I don’t want to spend the time I have with her at home obsessively cleaning. Although once when I picked her up from nursery one of the girls commented that Rae likes to put the toys back in their baskets and tidy up when she’s finished playing, and gets wipes and cleans the tables, so maybe I’m rubbing off on her more than I thought (I was a bit proud when she said it though).

Something I am considering adding to my CV is Pro Wrestler. I have to all but get her in a headlock to get her dressed in the morning. I’m not sure why she doesn’t like it, but she needs to learn it’s going to happen even if I have to chase her around the living room and rugby tackle her to the ground (Fortunately we’re not at this stage yet). This, and changing nappies. When Rae first came to live with me she wasn’t crawling and just lay like a little angel to have her nappy changed. This is no longer the case. If you could see some of the methods I’ve used to try to keep her still you’d think I was going mad. I’ve tried giving her my phone, giving her an electric toothbrush, propping her up so she’s practically sitting up and giving her milky buttons. But the novelty soon wears off and I’m back to chasing her around the living room, getting poo EVERYWHERE. My current trick is sticking stickers all over my face and while she’s reaching up to pick them off me I have just enough time to get one nappy off, clean her, and if I’m lucky get another nappy on. But this won’t work forever. And one day I’m going to leave the house with a flower sticker on my forehead, it’s inevitable. Oh and I use pull ups. They might be more expensive than normal nappies but I don’t care. They make my life just that little bit easier.

A sticker on my head might actually improve some of the states I’ve left the house in previously. Whereas I make sure Rae is always dressed well and her top coordinates with her bottoms (and there’s no point saving clothes for ‘best’, they grow out of them so quick you might as well get use out of them) the same can’t be said for me. My hair is lucky if it gets brushed and I always have questionable stains somewhere on my clothing. At the start it would get to 3 in the afternoon some days before I’d realise I hadn’t actually brushed my teeth that day. That’s what kids do to you. Oh and don’t even attempt to leave the house before 10am. It’s near impossible. I can sit there at 8am and think ‘I just need to get us both dressed and brush our teeth before we leave’ and before I know it it’s half 9 and I’m still not ready.

My first trip to Tesco was an experience. I’d had Rae about 3 days and decided to brave it. She couldn’t quite sit up on her own and I spent the whole time steering the trolley with my elbows whilst holding her up. Halfway round she was sick and I hadn’t taken any wipes in with me. She lost a sock at some point but I was past caring and just wanted to get out of there.

The part I’ve found the most difficult, much like most parents I assume, is when Rae is ill. Aside from the fact it is heartbreaking seeing your child in pain or uncomfortable, I hate sick. Give me poo, blood and snot any day but sick I do not handle well. About 6 weeks in to Rae living with me I went to check on her about 10pm. She was asleep but she’d been a bit sick and I couldn’t leave her lying in it so I (stupidly) thought I could pick her up, lie her on the floor cushion, change her sheets and get her back in the cot, all the while keeping her asleep. I even laugh at myself now, thinking back. I picked her up and lay her on the floor cushion and she stayed asleep. For all of 20 seconds. She then proceeded to vomit like a volcano erupting. I’ve never seen so much sick. I was practically hysterical. I got her to the bathroom and stripped her off. I sat her on a towel, wrapping another one around her. She was shivering, and then she just looked at me and smiled. In that moment I told myself to stop being such a baby and deal with it. If she can smile through this then so can I. I got her cleaned up and put a clean babygrow on her and, after changing her bedding, got her back to sleep. Then, much to my mum and friends delight I’m sure, I took a picture of the sick and sent it to them to share with them what I was dealing with. The floor cushion got thrown out and I didn’t sleep much that night. What then followed was a week of the most horrendous nappies, which resulted in at least one babygrow a day being thrown out, but I dealt with them a lot better. I’ve had a few more sick incidents since and I’m getting better at dealing with it. People used to say to me ‘when she starts nursery she’ll catch everything going’ and I used to think (or hope) they were being dramatic. They weren’t. In the 4 weeks since she started I’ve dealt with an ear infection, viral infection, raging temperatures, all with the usual colds and coughs (no sick yet thankfully). She really suffered with the ear infection and was is so much pain I wanted to cry for her but it was the viral infection that scared me the most. It resulted in me being onĀ the phone to the on-call doctor at half 1 in the morning, with me convinced she had meningitis. She thought it was great fun being up at that time, emptying my drawers of all my freshly ironed clothes, but the rash and temperature scared the life out of me. It’s nights like this that really bring it home that I’m doing this alone and it’s not just single adopters that will feel like this, any single parent will. But I get twice the amount of kisses and cuddles so I’m the one that wins.

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