Breastfeeding – Our Journey Ends

A few months back I wrote about my, or our, breastfeeding journey. The good, the bad and the downright painful. I wanted to write about it again now because things have changed.

Our breastfeeding journey began awkwardly, with tears and pain and confusion. And it has now come to a bittersweet ending, in much the same way as it began. But yet, quite unexpectedly.

Christmas fell on a Saturday this year, and as I love the lead up to the day, I booked the whole week off work and travelled over to my parents house on the Sunday before, planning to stay for ten days or so. R woke up around 2am on our second night crying out, seemingly in pain, but wouldn’t let us near him. I eventually took him downstairs and he fell asleep on me on the couch. The following morning he seemed cheery, had our morning boob cuddles in bed, got up and had cereal. And this is where things began to turn sour. Half an hour after breakfast everything came back up. Thank goodness for wooden floors. He was upset, crying and asking me to mind him, but once he was cleaned up and in fresh pyjamas it was like nothing had happened. We cuddled on the couch and had boobs to comfort him, and again, a while later, all the milk came back up.

In his third pair of pjs before 11am, we cuddled on the couch but this time I refused to let him have boobies. Even though he cried. Even though I knew he was upset. I wanted to make him feel better. But I also knew if we did it would all just come back up again. I did my best to explain to him that he was sick. That he had to just have a little bit of water. That the milk in mommy’s boobies was going to make him sick again. You can imagine how well he understood all of that. All he knew was he felt rotten, and was being denied the thing he relies on for comfort. So we cuddled in a big cosy armchair, he on my knee, wrapped in a blanket watching cartoons. We sat together like that for most of the day, and most of the following day. Anytime he ate he would be sick, so we tried to keep it minimal. You know, the usual, plain toast, crackers, that sort of thing.

He asked for boobies going to bed both nights, and once or twice during the days. Every time I told him the milk would make him sick. He didn’t like my answer but he would take a drink of water or have a hug instead. Gradually he stopped asking. Until we left my parents house and came home. Then at bedtime our first night home he asked again. I explained the milk was all gone, it had made him sick because it was time to stop. And it worked. He wasn’t terribly happy, but it worked.

Little did I know it was going to happen that way. It wasn’t ideal, but as with most things it worked out. I think maybe we were lucky that it was Christmas week and there were so many other things to distract him. Presents and chocolate and Santa and diggers.

So. Many. Diggers.

It has been three weeks and two days since my last breastfeeding session. I am saddened by the end of the journey, but also, I am glad to be out the other side. It was a long one, a journey I am so glad to have been a part of but one that needed to end. Our relationship is as strong as ever, it hasn’t changed anything there. He still wants me if he wakes in the night, he still wants me to rub his back to help him sleep or wrap him in a hug when he’s watching cartoons. I am so thankful I got to do this with him, but I am also extremely thankful to be out of those awful nursing bras. I might have to burn them.

Fear, Fright and Freedom

2021 was gonna be my year. I say that every new year, but this year something felt different. And it took a while for that feeling to settle in me, for me to know what I meant when I said I was gonna do more this year.

I’ve started to learn things about myself. I think being a parent makes you start to assess and look inward a bit more. Well, it does for me. And when I started to assess me I didn’t like what I saw. I’ve been living scared for a long time. And scared of things I didn’t know I was scared of. Having a kid is the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I didn’t realise quite how frightened I would be before I got pregnant. I have always been someone who thinks about the what ifs. I used to think about the things that could happen to a baby I may someday have long before I even thought of getting pregnant. But once I was pregnant the doom set in. I started thinking about the hundreds of things that could possibly happen to this tiny thing growing inside me. I’ve said it before, but I ended up in hospital almost every two weeks for checks – thanks Gestational Diabetes – but honestly it made me so happy to go in. To be told regularly that you are fine; your baby is fine. There is nothing wrong. Those visits reassured me every time. But it was always short lived. The doom would settle in, usually at night when I couldn’t sleep, and I’d start going down the black hole of Internet forums and medical sites. Terrible idea. I don’t recommend it.

The doom continued once R made his way into the world, held aloft like Simba above my open belly. The things I had heard of, the possibilities of things that could be a concern, real and imagined, were endless. Again, it was usually late at night when neither he nor I could sleep. I would be convinced it was something more serious than just a bad case of wind.

What I am trying to say, if in a roundabout way, is that having him, growing him, caring for him is the single most terrifying thing I have ever done. It is fulfilling, rewarding,  entertaining, and it comes mostly naturally and I am lucky for all of those things. But when I actually stop and consciously think about it, it scares the bejeesus out of me.

But I kind of thought if I can do this, I can do other things too.

I chopped my hair off. Now that isn’t something that scares me, but it is symbolic right?
I went away for a night and left the two boys home alone. And they survived. They were both exhausted and very happy to see me by the time I got home, but they survived. We all did. And then I went away overnight again. And again. And every time was a little bit easier. Every time felt a little bit less like my beating heart was left behind in the house while I trundled further and further away.

But the trundling away was, in itself, a pain in the ass. I don’t drive. I am late 30’s and I have never sat my driving test. I have had every reason and excuse under the sun, most of them genuine, some of them less so, as to why I haven’t gone through with it. I have been learning to drive for over a decade. But never followed through. But this summer, I bought a car. It was the step I feared most. The cost of a car is a huge thing to me. For someone who lives week to week, paycheck to paycheck, shelling out even for a cheap car is almost physically painful. It is a huge weight hanging over me. But I decided the fears I felt about driving were nothing I couldn’t get over with some practice and confidence. So I bought a car. Now I have to drive it.

And then I decided to face one more fear. I submitted a piece I have written into a short story competition. The fear of being judged for my writing is real and lingering and partly why I don’t write much. Now if you’re reading this, you’re wondering what is she talking about. But thoughts and views written on a blog feels entirely removed from the creative writing involved in a short story. So here I am, anxiously awaiting the results of this contest. I know the long list of finalists won’t be released until maybe Christmas or even the new year, but I still keep sporadically checking the website on the off chance I missed the email saying Here It Is! Our Finalists. And I know the likelihood that my name will be on that list is somewhere between slim and not a chance, but I keep checking. I think because I am fearful of what people will say when they read it. If they read it.

I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision, that I was doing these things out of a need to face my fears, out of a desire to find out who exactly I am, but more that they don’t scare me quite as much any more. If I can grow a baby, be sliced open and recover from it, and raise a healthy and happy two year old, then driving a car is a doddle. Having my work judged is…well, still terrifying but its getting easier. It doesn’t frighten me quite the same way anymore.

Still, pen name suggestions welcome.


It was my birthday last week. My third birthday as a mum. My second since covid began. And I feel like I’m getting into my stride with both things. Although I do find the parenting easier than the pandemic. At least with parenting I can tell the two year old what to do and explain why we do such a thing, and he’s two and he trusts me so he usually goes along with it. Usually. He even reminds me when we head out that I need my mask.

He is a riot these days. Full of talk, and getting new words every day. I kind of forget that he isn’t a baby anymore and can understand more of what I’m saying. I’ve had to start paying more attention when I’m talking around him, the mere mention of the word bus and he is putting his shoes and coat on for an outing. And if I mention Grandad or a car he immediately starts looking out the window for him. The fact that Grandad lives two hours away means he won’t just be popping by on a whim. Well, not regularly.

He is as independent as ever, and absolutely knows his own mind. Which I love, and I encourage, but sometimes it makes life difficult. I have to remind myself and the Dad that we are the parents. The toddler should not be the one dictating to us. I mean, nor should we dictate to him, we don’t run that kind of household, but we are the authority figures. Well, I am anyway. Mammy is usually right.

But this knowing his own mind thing comes with challenges. He is outgrowing all his clothes, but is against any new ones I bring home. If I try to put them on him he screams and kicks. Or sometimes just point blank refuses. But after he has worn something once he is fine to wear it again. It’s just the newness of it all he abhors. Working on that one.

The night before my birthday I went out for dinner with some ladies from the neighbourhood. Women I have gotten to know over socially distant drinks during lockdown, and through many odd and meandering conversations in group chats. We decided to take our socially distant driveway drinks on the road and head out for a meal together. An actual sit down meal. In a restaurant. With wait staff and cocktails and no washing up. It was slightly surreal, but wonderful.

Before leaving the house,  while I was getting ready I had a moment. I looked at my reflection and thought ‘Oh. There she is. It’s been a while.’ It felt like the first time since, maybe since before I was pregnant,  that I felt like myself. That I felt like the outer view matched the inner sense of self.

And then I couldn’t help noticing the stack of books next to my bed. It resembles my stack of to be read books back when I was at uni. When I had free time and leisure and knew not how to spend it. I have actually finished four books this year. I know, that’s not a lot, but considering everything else that I have on my plate, and the fact I usually pass out as soon as my head hits the pillow, I am impressed with myself. That’s more books than I have finished in the last 2 years combined. And I intend to finish at least one or two more before the year is out.

This birthday thing isn’t all that bad. This year I got the gift of re-acquanting with myself, and I really like it. It’s a slow process but the results are worth it.

After my night out at a REAL LIFE restaurant, I spent my birthday morning watching Gecko’s Garage with my 2 year old, keeping a careful eye on him as he tried to drink milk from a cup and praying he doesn’t spill it all over the couch. But all he managed to do was give himself a milk moustache. A cup of tea, his company and cheesy kids shows was a pretty good start to this year. I hope lots of my mornings are as relaxed and happy as that one.

Breastfeeding – A Journey

I haven’t written anything in quite a while, and not for lack of inspiration. Having a two year old is nothing if not entertaining. I think the lack of writing was more down to exhaustion and being worn out than anything else. But that being said, it was National Breastfeeding Week this week and I wasn’t going to let it go by without writing about my experiences. I still feel that it is a bit of a taboo subject. In my own echo chamber it’s talked about daily. I follow lots of mum accounts on social media, and it’s inevitable that some of them will be talking about breastfeeding and the wonders of it. And it is still a daily topic in my house. But when I am talking to people outside of my immediate mum circle it feels like one of those topics I should tall about in hushed tones. But I don’t. And I won’t here, and this whole post is about boobs and how they feed babies, so consider yourself warned.

Once R and I got in a good rhythm, and once I got over being a bit embarrassed about it, I was quite happy and quite comfortable to feed him wherever and whenever,  and to discuss it openly. And I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I wanted to breastfeed and we managed to feed successfully for a couple of years. But the embarrassed hushed tones are creeping back into my talk now because he is 2 and a bit and we are still feeding. I feel like I will be judged for still going. So I try not to mention it if the conversation goes that way. But between the pandemic causing us to be at home together for longer, and the habits we got into of feeding before bed and when he wakes in the morning,  it’s been a hard habit to break. And honestly I like the time we have together. Would I have liked to have stopped over a year ago like I planned? Well yes. But I also love the time it gives us together,  having a cuddle before he goes to sleep. Waking up and having a few minutes of sleepy cuddles in the morning is a gorgeous way to start my day.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before but we did not get off to a good start. And we have had bumps on the road to where we are now. But those online mums I follow and the mum friends I knew I could text at 4am for help were a godsend. And still are. So I guess I wanted to share what experience I had and give whatever advice I can to anyone who is struggling.

So first things first. Breastfeeding hurts. It fucking hurts. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s beautiful, natural, magical; baby gets everything he needs from you; goddess; wonder woman. All phrases and words I read back when I was reading about breastfeeding and figuring out how to tackle it. And while they’re not wrong, they are definitely not the only words that encompass what you are going to experience. Pain. Some of the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. I cried so often because of the pain. And because of the torture I was putting myself through and the guilt I felt when I thought about stopping. Guilt I should add, that I was only putting on myself. I wanted to do it, I wanted to feed him myself, but the pain he was putting me through felt overwhelming. Many times I wanted to stop. And when we did try to give him a bottle of formula, he point blank refused. On the odd occasion he would drink formula we found he was sick afterwards. And not just a tiny bit of baby vomit, proper throw-up-everything-I’ve-just-eaten sick. I actually sat on the side of the bath with him throwing up over my shoulder one night just to save on cleaning up. So I felt I had to keep going, even though there were times when I resented giving him my boobs.

Secondly, there might be blood. In fact, scrap that. There will be blood. And cracks on your nipples. And it is gross. Unpleasant. And only adds to the soreness. I had the added adventure of freaking out when he was about 8 weeks old because there was blood on the muslin after he burped and was a little sick. I started to panic and my brain immediately thought the worst. I was trying to figure out how he could have internal bleeding or a tear in his stomach lining….until I realised it was MY blood. He had ingested some blood while feeding. At least that was my theory. I watched him like a hawk for the next 24 hours on the off chance I was wrong. Thankfully it was the one and only time it happened.

There are some wonderful products out there that help with the pain and soreness and bleeding. I used a combination of things but the two I kept within easy reach were some lanolin cream and some nipple compresses. The cream is more like a gel, and it is weird and sticky and thick but wonderful and also safe for baby so no need to wash off before feeding. The compresses were recommended to me by a friend and they were wonderful. Cold soothing gel on a sheet that you stick onto the affected area and it instantly helps. I went through several boxes of them and will be buying them for any and all friends who decide to breastfeed in future. These are also baby safe, so no need to wash before feeding. I actually found using them before a feed helped to numb the area which made the feed easier.

Things that didn’t work so well – good old fashioned ice cubes. Bad idea. I read somewhere that ice to numb the nipple before a feed would help but it didn’t, not for me. It just gave me a new pain sensation along with the original.

Delaying feeding the kid. Just a bad idea all round. Kid gets hangry and loud, nipples start to leak and get sore anyway.

The only thing that takes the pain away is consistency. Keep going. Power through. It sucks but its the truth.

When he was 10 days old, I was sore all over (thanks c-section) and had to go back into hospital so they could remove the c-section bandage. I asked the midwife for advice because my boobs were huge and sore and cracked and feeding was painful. Her first tip gave me shudders – after your shower rub a rough towel against the nipples – no thanks. But the main thing she had to say was just keep going. Keep trying. It does get easier.

And it did. We had a solid six weeks of hell at the beginning, but here we are, he’s 2 years and 3 months and we are almost out the other side. And we’ve had bumps where he was over-feeding for comfort and the pain and cracks came back. And we’ve had bumps where he point blank refused a bottle of boob juice so I was his sole source of comfort and food (that never changed. Never took a bottle). And bumps where I’ve leaked in public and been so so thankful that the top I was wearing was the right material to not show the leak and to dry quickly. And bumps where he wanted to feed 5 times a night even though I had work at 8am. And bumps where I had to feed him on public transport.

The whole process is difficult. I mean, that’s actually quite an understatement. It can be awful. You are already tired and worn out having carried the kid for 9 months and then birthing him. And then he wants even more from you. The kid wants to cling on to you and be fed by you. Round the clock, on demand. It is exhausting and painful and emotional. But also comforting and rewarding and beautiful.

It is absolutely not for everyone. I don’t know if I would do it again, knowing what I know now. If I went back in time would I stop sooner or never start at all? Maybe. I am glad I did it, and I know I am very lucky that he latched after only a few days of awkwardness. Some women can’t feed, or don’t want to. If anyone tells you you should be breastfeeding or that you’re wrong to just give formula, I will give the best piece of advice I was given when I was pregnant. Listen to them, nod politely, and then ignore everything they say. In one ear and out the other. You know your body and you know your child. Do whats right for you.

Oh, and get a comfortable chair. And lots and lots of pillows.

Lockdown Loneliness

I know I am absolutely not alone in what I am about to talk about, and no doubt there are other stories out there more complex and well put together than mine, but this week has been a tough one. And because of that I want to say this and put it out there.

I am lonely.

I brought a lot of this on myself. I moved cross country with a 3 month old, leaving my family and support network behind, started a new job a few months later and then a worldwide pandemic hit. Which, in my defense, I couldn’t have predicted.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, I am not alone. I am in this lockdown world with my partner and our now toddler. But there is something unique about family ties, and celebrating the little man’s birthday this last week without the help of that family really brought the loneliness to a head.

The nephews who live closest are both teenagers, and I have spent many of their birthdays – and the day and night and sometimes week before – helping bake, decorate, facepaint. Just generally doing whatever needed to be done. And it has always been a team effort. And last week I realised how much I miss that team.

The night before his birthday I stayed up way past my usual bedtime decorating, blowing up balloons, putting confetti on the table and just generally making the place different. Making it special. He can’t see his family, he has no one to make a fuss over him but us, so I made a fuss.

When he woke the next morning – later than normal, thanks for that present buddy – we went into his room with balloons and he played in his cot, the biggest grin on his face as he giggled, bouncing the balloons around the room. Then we came downstairs to find more balloons in the hall, and birthday banners and even more balloons in the kitchen and sitting room. The kid didn’t know where to look. He was grinning and laughing from the moment he woke up. And that’s how it should be.

He had the best day. There were diggers and new books. Cards and parcels came through the letter box. A new sand pit to play in with his diggers which kept him entertained for most of the afternoon. A chocolate cake covered in diggers and chocolate gravel. Zoom calls with all the grandparents and aunts and uncles. He was the centre of attention. Exactly as it should be.

And then, when he finally went to bed, I was left with the aftermath. Chocolate cake crumbs mixed with confetti across the table and floor. More sand on the ground and in the house than in the sandpit. New toys and books strewn across every surface. A sink and countertops overflowing from ignoring the normal daily chores. And in that moment, looking at the mess left from a day of celebration, I felt completely alone and sadder than I have felt in a long time. The Dad has a regular standing Friday night online game session, and there had been a conversation the day before about him missing it but I told him no, play, once the kid was in bed the day was done. And even if he hadn’t played that night, I think the loneliness still would have hit. Because it’s a different kind of alone. I realised just how much having my sisters close by means to me.

So once the birthday boy had gone to bed and I had made a half hearted attempt at tidying up, I sent a message to one sister, and they happened to be together. So we video called and had a drink and a chat, just as we would have done if it weren’t for the lockdown and living in different counties. And it was lovely to see their faces and laugh and chat and just generally hang out, as much as we can, given the circumstances. And it was what I needed. I find even when I do call people to talk, no one has anything to actually talk about. So that night, having put the Birthday Boy to bed, for a change we had some topics – mostly digger and cake related – to talk about. But it felt close to normal.

Right now, I am doing my bit. I am wearing my mask and even though the restrictions have eased slightly I am staying home aside from essential travel. Because I don’t want to be the reason I can’t go see my family this summer. I don’t want to know that I could have done something differently. I need my kid to start mixing with people other than me and Dad. He needs to be around people who love him and not just once in a while through a screen. I need to sit and talk and laugh with a gin in my hand over normal things with the people I miss while he runs around with his cousins. I need to breathe. To relax, to let someone else take responsibility for him for a few hours. I need to taste the salt on my lips after a few hours at the beach. I want him to see that the sand goes on for miles, and to have him lose himself in the joy of digging holes on the shoreline.

I need my shoulders to come down from around my ears. I am lonely. I can’t wait not to be.

Second Lockdown Birthday

When we had your first birthday in Lockdown I kept thinking this is fine. You don’t know what’s going on anyway so having it just be the three of us is more disappointing for me than it is for you or Dad. I think Dad was secretly relieved.
At the time I said it’s fine. We’ll just have to go big next year.
Well here we are. Next year. You are two. And this is another lockdown birthday.

Truthfully, you still have no idea what’s going on, not really,  so the fact that nobody can visit for your birthday isn’t a problem for you. You can’t miss what you’ve never had. But it breaks my heart. I’ve been keeping the sorrow at bay with planning and optimism, but no amount of positivity is going to change what is going on in our world.

Your second birthday will once again be just the three of us. You, me and Dad. And I have kind of over compensated for what you are missing out on. I go big for birthdays anyway. At least I try to. A birthday is a celebration. Of life, of love, of joy. The fact you got another year older. The fact we are successfully raising a sweet, funny, silly little boy and doing so while stuck in a crazy world that doesn’t know up from down right now. A celebration of the best thing I’ve ever done, and a celebration of what helped me stay sane in lockdown. (Though that last one is debatable). So I have gone big. I chose a theme and I ran with it.  Dad watched me,  probably wondering what he has to build or how to get out of decorating, as I researched and planned. I discussed ideas with him but I think by now he knows me well enough to know that if I start with ‘I was thinking of doing; making; getting’ its easier to just agree and let me run. I’m gonna do it anyway.

Our theme is the theme of so many other birthday parties for 2 year old boys – construction. You love nothing more than watching the diggers and dumptrucks on the building site, and we are fortunate to live slap bang in the middle of several. Our daily walks consist of going between each of them in the hopes of seeing some action.  A digger digging, a dump truck dumping, and on rare exciting occasions, a cement truck delivering cement. So I have balloons in red, orange, yellow and black. I even have some shaped like dump trucks. Your cake is a construction site, complete with mini vehicles and chocolate rubble. There is bright yellow caution tape wrapped around your chair. And a new digger – with screwdriver so you can take it apart – is waiting for you to unwrap.

I hope you sense that this is a special day. That it is a day all about you and that you are loved beyond measure by not just us, but everyone in your life. All the cards dropping through the letterbox this week are making you smile, even if you don’t know what they are. You hear the clunk of the letterbox and get excited, running to see what’s there. And you are becoming a dab hand at getting cards out of envelopes. And at tearing tape from the boxes your parcels arrive in. Though the practice from all my online purchases may have helped you there.

It has been a strange year since your first Birthday, but one I wouldn’t change. We’ve gotten to spend so much time with you, just us. We get to see every minute of every day of yours. We are there for every new discovery, new word, new trick. We have been exceptionally lucky when it comes to the time we are getting to spend with you.

Without you this last year would have been tedious. Life with a toddler can be repetitive, as is lockdown life. But a life with you in it is never boring. You make me smile and laugh every day, and you are a joy to be with.

Happy Second Birthday my little man.

Mother’s Day The Second

Mother’s Day was almost two weeks ago, and it was my second Mothers day as an actual mother. And it’s strange because I feel like I have always been this iteration of myself. A little bit like there was no me before me as a mom. And I am not saying that he completes me or that I need him to feel whole. Just that I feel I spent a lot of time in my life trying to be someone I’m not. Trying to fit in. Trying so hard to be liked; to say the right thing; to be who others wanted or needed me to be. And it was only in recent years that I feel I stopped trying so hard. Or at least I’ve gotten better at recognising the types of people who bring that out in me. 

But since I became a mom I am more me. I am more like the person I used to be. My son doesn’t care about my job. He doesn’t care whether I am dressed to impress or if I look like I’ve rolled out of bed backwards. He just needs me to be me. He loves me no matter what. Because I’m his mom. He just wants me to show up, to be involved. 

Right now, he wants me to sit with him while he watches Hey Duggee. He wants me to take a turn using his new lawnmower. He wants to be up cooking and baking with me, even if all I’m doing is pouring a bowl of cereal. He wants me to colour with the green pencil.  No, the other green pencil. He wants to give me all the random bits of fluff and dirt he finds on the floor, that threaten to ruin his sparkling clean floor he spent the morning sweeping. Correction, I spent the morning sweeping. Under his supervision. 

He looks to me when he’s excited about something, to confirm what he’s heard and to share in his excitement. It’s difficult to get excited about every bin truck and digger and tractor and plane, but I do it. I do it because he is excited about it. Because for him, this isn’t the 1 millionth plane that has flown overhead or the same tractor we’ve seen every day this month. For him this is all still new and exciting and fascinating. I try to remember that he is an explorer and adventurer, that every single thing he encounters is new, and if he happens to encounter it a second or third time, that is just as exciting because look! Here’s proof that I didn’t imagine it. That this thing is real and it exists and there is more than one. 

Mother’s Day is always portrayed as a day where Mother’s get the day off. And while I would love a day to myself – to rest, to read, to listen to my music so loud it can be heard three doors away – having an almost 2 year old meant that was never going to happen. He took the meaning of Mother’s Day to be that he needed to be with me, on me, beside me at all times. I couldn’t leave the room without him following me. Although I gather this is quite normal for his age I found it funny that one of the first days he really showed this deeply intense need to be near me was Mothers day.

I spent too much time before this trying to be who others needed me to be, who I thought I had to be to fit in. And now I am still trying to be who someone else needs me to be, but this one is easier. This time it comes more naturally to me. Because all this person needs me to be is me. To be me and to love him. To play and to sing and to laugh with him. And all of that I do willingly. Even on days where he wants me to be that person at 5am, I am willing. He is helping me remember what it is I like about myself. Those things when you’re a kid that get squashed and silenced as we grow up.

The silliness. The craziness. The desire to read and read and read. To climb and clamber and explore. To sing loudly and dance around the kitchen. To bake a chocolate cake just because its a rainy day and we have the ingredients.

He is helping me find the me that I used to love. I’ve missed her.

Dear Hull

Originally posted on Facebook in March 2020

Dear Hull,

Lately I’m missing you. I’m thinking about my favourite times, my favourite places.

The Top Deck in Princes Quay, before it made way for yet another cinema. The hours upon hours spent in Sun Café studying, reading, writing essays, but mostly drinking tea and having chats. Sharkeys and the gorgeous cocktails. Being introduced to Spiders and realising what had been missing from my weekends. Discovering Asda (we didn’t have it in Ireland). Fudge Cafe. Sleepers. Larkins bar. Larkin! Arthur Miller and our tiny class in the library. That library and the fabulous view. The beginning of my promising but never fulfilled career as a tour guide, showing prospective students the campus but selling that view!

Newland Ave and all it had to offer. I must have walked you a thousand times or more. Ever changing, ever constant. The tight little beauty box store where I purchased a box that would give me the worst hair colour I have ever had! (I mean it was orange). And then bought a second box to fix it. The Queens pub, always saying I’d go more and rarely making it.
Princes Ave and its bars and restaurants. Dukes! The weirdly wonderful shop at the end of my road that sold all sorts of gifts, cards, odds and ends(the name escapes me, and it is long gone). Pearson Park and the untold joy of finding George the iguana living there, and seeing a real life axolotl for the first time. Afternoons spent sitting in the sunshine.

The International Office and the International Students Association. Best decision I made first year was becoming an active member.
Planet Coffee. Hull Fair.
The Bee Lady! (is she still going?)
Hull New Theatre and feeling extravagant when I could afford a ticket for a show.

The Humber Bridge and the joy I felt every time I saw it from the train, knowing I was so close to being back in my adopted home.

The random giant TV in the city centre – if anyone could ever enlighten me as to its original purpose I’d be ever grateful. Great meeting point though.

Newland Fisheries – oh my god best chips in Hull by a mile!

But mostly, and importantly, I feel nostalgic for the people, the community, the spirit and the life. The chatting for hours about everything and nothing. The shared experiences. Introducing people to movies I love (Oscar anyone?). The many, many nights spent in sanctuary bar singing karaoke. The Old Grey Mare, our regular Thursday dinner before Sanctuary. The random road trips (Spurn head?). The hundreds of games of pool.  Dancing the night away in Asylum with DJ Ferby playing the tunes! The friendships. The dramas! The stories that unfolded on the long walk home.

Why the sudden burst of nostalgia? My life has changed considerably over the last 18 months, all for good, but it’s got me thinking. And just because we may not be in contact and I may not be able to visit doesn’t mean you are not in my thoughts. And I suppose I wanted to let you know you are always a part of me.

Lockdown Nostalgia

Lockdown has made me nostalgic. Almost a year ago I wrote a letter on facebook to my adopted city, my college home away from home, and I find myself drawn to the city again now. (I’ll add the original Dear Hull letter in a separate post). I merely wrote about the things I missed, though a few experiences creeped in there too.

The other night I was suddenly and without warning transported back to a moment in time. Sitting in an old mans pub in Old Town with work colleagues, the name of which was completely escaping me. But I knew exactly where it was. So at 11.15 at night I was lying in bed, the only light coming from my far too bright screen as I wandered the streets of Hull via Google maps looking for this elusive pub. And I found it, of course. Temporarily closed, as like everything else. The Burlington Tavern, for anyone wondering. Nice pub. It was down the street from my work place. And while I hated the job – sales, not for me, didn’t quite last 6 months – the people were wonderful. All a bit cracked. My kind of folk.

As with most work groups, there were a couple of groups within the group. There was the younger guys (and one guy who wanted to be younger) who would be out all weekend, drinking to excess and inevitably showing up late to work on a Monday morning. These guys would take to Lloyds or Weatherspoons on Friday after work and would stay there for the night. I would sometimes join them for a couple of drinks but would politely make my excuses and leave early on. Not my scene, thanks all the same.

Then there were the other crowd, made up of misfits and oddballs. And I say that lovingly, because they were the ones I felt most at ease with. And it was with these particular people that I would find myself sitting in The Burlington after work on a Friday. I didn’t go often, and I certainly was not a regular, but it was nice to sit and talk with people who were all doing a job because it was a merely a job, a means to an end. To talk with people of varying ages who were all in similar boats.

Talking about these after work drinks led the Dad to ask about the job I held after this one, and where did that crowd go for team bonding? Which led us on a merry wander of Bev Rerd, looking at memorable haunts, and some haunting memories.

For the uninitiated – so, most of you – Beverley Road (to give it its full and proper title), stretches from Hull City Centre and eventually pairs up with Cottingham Road, which is the University address. Bev Road was, and by the looks of it, still is, home to an array of pubs and student friendly eateries. I’d say restaurants but that would be overly generous.

I tended to stick to its trendier counterparts, Newland Ave and Princes Ave. Trendy and tailored to the students who crowded them for 9 months of the year. Full of shops and pubs and restaurants, forever changing yet forever constant.

I have been trying to decide why I am feeling so nostalgic lately. Is it simply the huge life changes crashing in on me? A baby, a move to a new city and a new job, all followed shortly after by a world wide pandemic can’t be good for consistency and life balance. Is it just the being a parent thing? I love him and wouldn’t change him, but that time in my life was so full of options and possibilities. Every day was an opportunity to meet a new person or try something different. I suppose that’s what university is all about.

Yes, university, college if you prefer, is about learning and study and forging a path for yourself through academia. But it’s also about forging a path for yourself in your personal life too. Finding out who you want to be, or as is maybe more important, who you don’t want to be. Try that sport or drink or activity and realise that no, Ultimate Frisbee is not your sport, Snakey B is as bad as it sounds and politics is definitely not your area of expertise. But look at that, you crossed three more things off your list.

Maybe I am nostalgic for the lost possibilities. For the what if’s, the sliding doors moments. There are no regrets – okay, maybe some – but there is always a little bit of curiosity.

Maybe I am missing human interaction. I was a bit of a social butterfly at university and now I can count on two hands the amount of people I am still in touch with from back then.

Recently, under another late night nostalgia bubble, reached out to an old University friend. One I hadn’t spoken to in a decade. I sent an email off into outer space thinking surely this is a non starter, this email address must be dead. But she replied a few days later. This was weeks ago and I still don’t know how I feel about hearing from her. But I was the one that initiated it so I can’t really back out now. But, thankfully I suppose, she is also a mum to a toddler so the emails are few and far between.

I miss people. I miss talking to people, getting to know them. Sitting over a tea or a drink and having nowhere to be and nobody relying on me and just being. Existing. Enjoying the moment. I think partially that’s why I am writing again. To exist. To be present and enjoy the moment. To remind me who I am again. Because being his mum is amazing and wonderful, but it is not all I am. I feel like the she of my uni days has been lost somewhere. But I’m here, trying to find her again.

Original Dear Hull letter can be found here –


*not us in the picture, just liked the leaning into the cot. He looks a lot more comfortable than I usually feel.

Most of this was written on my phone, in the dark, in mid November. I’ve since added to it and thought more about it. Still true now, I was leaning into his cot again last night.

I’m standing in the dark, one slipper on, one off, leaning into my son’s cot, rubbing his back and dreaming about someone else rubbing mine. It hurts. I’ve been standing here for I don’t know how long. Long enough to decide to take out my phone and type one handed. But the thing is, I will continue to do this any time he needs it, backache be damned, because that’s just what you do isn’t it?

My biggest problem currently is how to lean in comfortably. I’m quite short so sitting on the chair I have next to his cot for feeding and cuddles isn’t an option because then the the cot just digs into my armpit and my fingertips just about reach his back. Assuming he’s on the edge of the cot closest to me. If he’s against the wall its a non starter.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record and talk about his sleeping habits again but I’m gonna. He is getting so much better. His daytime naps are a dream – 99% of the time anyway – but at night is when the issues begin. We do exactly the same thing at night as we do during the day but it just doesn’t seem to work for him as well. But, once he is asleep he stays that way, pretty solidly, for most of the night. He will wake once, maybe twice and usually not for long. But how he falls asleep has changed. If he is awake going into the cot someone (me!) has to sit with him, rub his back, generally just be there and be a comfort to him. We have managed on a few occasions to leave the room while he’s awake and he will fall asleep himself. But, more often than not, if we leave the room he either screams bloody murder or lies there and taps the mattress or plays with his teddy or moves around the bed like a gymnast in training. None of which helps him sleep. But me being there and rubbing his back or his head, that seems to help him sleep.

All I want for him – and me – is a good nights sleep, a good rest, to be able to have a full action packed day the next day and not miss out. Not that a lack of sleep seems to bother him too much. He is still raring to go once he wakes up, whether that’s after 10 minutes or 10 hours. I on the other hand, I’d prefer the 10 hours please.

We’ve had a few days now where he has fallen asleep for his mid day nap only to wake 15 or 20 minutes later and abjectly refuse to go back to sleep. He’s had a power nap and is ready to rock and roll and destroy. We, the parental team, are not fans of these days and are looking to the day when he rejects naps altogether with fear and nervousness. What are we going to do with a child who is up from 7 til 7 with no stopping in between?

He is like a little ball of energy. It’s almost like he doesn’t need the sleep. I keep comparing him to Taz, remember him? The cartoon Tasmanian devil who would spin and cause destruction in his wake, never stopping to check or even notice the mess he left behind. That’s our kid. We use nap time to try to regain some attempt at our house looking normal and catching up on chores.

I have to be thankful for Covid for one thing, at least no one is calling to the house to visit! If they were I think it would have to come with a disclaimer – Please Note! This household contains a rambunctious toddler. Please secure any loose or delicate items upon entering, including arms and feet, that you do not wish to have torn, thrown or tasted. Also, those of a ticklish nature, do not initiate tickles. This toddler gives as good as he gets.