Tuesday, 18 November 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like chaos!

For the past few nights just as I'm falling to sleep I've had that horrible stomach churning, unsettled feeling. The one that is a mixture of nausea, fear, anxiety and even excitement. I was trying to identify why it's happening, looking for a specific thing to blame it on. I started running through the list of things I was worrying about. It was when I'd managed to mentally list about a dozen things including, impending Botox (Mojo not me!!), impending Gastro Surgery, baby's first immunisations and development checks, 3rd birthday plans, nursery induction and even Christmas shopping that I realised that perhaps, just perhaps it was a culmination of all of the above!

So first things first, I've discovered a silver lining that I never knew existed which is always nice. When one is dealing with a conventional baby there is a genuinely mind blowing amount of advice, methods, routines, plans and books to follow. I remember being so envious of my friend who had a book called 'what to expect in the first year'. I felt hard done by that with Mojo nobody could tell me what to expect in the coming days, let alone the coming year. Imagine having a book which will tell you what to expect and what to do and how to get it right I thought. Lucky bloody 'normal' mums. Well, not so much it turns out. In fact it turns out that being able to disregard all baby advice and competitive parenting because your baby is not expected to behave conventionally is very liberating and in fact not having a book to beat myself up with first time around was a huge blessing in disguise. Admittedly it was a very convincing disguise but now with hindsight and a conventional baby on my knee I can see it clearly. So it is with huge self discipline that I am attempting to shelve the books and do exactly what we did the first time around and baby number two like a tiny unpredictable human without worrying too much about 'what to expect'. (I reserve the right to ignore this high horse approach when I'm googling 'baby cross eyed normal?' at 3am)

Adjusting to life with newborn aside we've had a month of anti-climactic stress and diary juggling caused primarily by Mojo not being well enough to have her scheduled surgery this month. We spent three hours waiting to 'check in' to hospital only to be told by the anaesthetist that Mojo's cold would mean that if he had to put her under he would 'almost certainly put her in intensive care'. Urmmm yeah, okay, lets not then!!! So after lots of preparing both her and I for it we now have to wait until days before her 3rd birthday for the rescheduled operation. In the meantime tomorrow brings her first Botox injection to try and help her hip movement. The side effects list includes a 'flu like' illness. Excuse me while I bang my head repeatedly against this wall. Can one buy shares in Calpol??

It was Children in Need last week and once again I found it very surreal to find myself associating so closely with the appeal films, you know the ones that make you cry because of how hard life must be for these children and their parents. Despite directly benefitting from fabulous projects which are funded by the charity I find it very difficult to reconcile her as a 'disadvantaged child'. Not least because we have done so much fun stuff amidst all the medical chaos. Seaside mini breaks, parties, Halloween fun, swimming and cycling with Wheels for Wellbeing. As ever no amount of illness or procedures can dampen her mood or compromise her beaming smile.
Wheels for Wellbeing!

There's a lot going on. my memory is shot and despite baby being an amazing sleeper the sleep deprivation of night feeding does take it's toll. As always at this time of year the weeks seem to be flying by and the to-do list of jobs that I usually enjoy such as Christmas shopping or birthday cake baking feel a bit heavy. That's the best word for it, heavy. Hopefully once the operations and procedures are completed and we can focus on the nice elements of December things will seem easier.

Have you ever read a more melodramatic excuse for not bothering with Christmas cards this year! Honestly, I don't know what I do with my time.

Strawberry fun!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Two's Company

I thought it would be more confusing. I thought I'd feel divided, halved, conflicted. I couldn't imagine how it would feel loving anyone in the same way I love Mojo.

I thought Mojo would be confused, jealous, even cross. How could a child with a reasonably unquantifiable understanding of what was happening learn to share the limelight she has been bathed in for almost three years. How would she cope with sharing me, sharing her daddy, sharing her home.

When will I learn that Mojo simply hasn't read the manual about how she is 'supposed' to behave or react.

Baby sister's arrival was lengthy, exhausting and culminated in a short stay for her in special care. The irony of this was not lost on me even in my drug addled exhausted state. They must be mistaken as this was my 'healthy' baby, this baby wasn't destined for special care. It was hours before I got to meet her, to hold her and to feed her. The flood of maternal love, as warming as stepping into a hot bath and as exhilarating as any other human experience, overwhelmed me with its force.

The feeling of meeting my second daughter was to be one of two overwhelming meetings that day. Introducing my daughters to each other was indescribably beautiful.

My girls. Together.

When Mojo was born and throughout her first year every 'first' that she achieved was a moment that I captured in my heart, banked and treasured. I knew that no matter what happened nobody could take any of these memories from me. We accepted each first as a potential last and only.

Never did I ever dream that one day we would be able to experience her first meeting her baby sister. Nor could I have imagined the instant love and adoration that I would see between them. And yet. Peering into the cot with an equal measure of excitement and amusement (Mojo found baby's wriggling hilarious, like she was a moving dolly!) there she was. No longer my baby, my grown up girl. Memory banked firmly in my heart.

Naturally now, I battle my internal pessimist thinking it must all be too good to be true, there must be disaster looming around the corner. So when one week into life with two Imogen became ill, stopped sleeping and drinking and took to heartbreaking whimpering in pain and discomfort, it was almost like I'd willed my fears into reality. As it transpired however we coped. We had to call in the reinforcements (eternal thanks to both Mojo's grandmothers who took turns staying up all night soothing her) but we coped.

Now we are fully recovered the ever familiar mantra of one day at a time is very much back in play. Not in the same way as it was when life felt precarious but rather the way that I imagine all new parents feel no matter what the needs of their children!

The future, both short and long term feels a bit daunting. We have gastro tube surgery scheduled in a matter of weeks and the ball is rolling for our EHCP (care plan for schooling) meanwhile I am very much aware that babies don't sleep for 8 hours of each day for long!! Repeat mantra.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Diagnosis Day #3

Sometimes 2nd August 2011 feels like yesterday sometimes it feels like a million years ago. Either way the memories and emotions it evokes are the same. Staring at the grain of the wood of the table on which I laid my head after putting the phone down. Before the immediate shock wore off, before the crying began, before, really, the magnitude of the conversation had hit, before I'd even called Bill just those few seconds of blank shock. Those few life-changing seconds of comprehension. That's mostly what I remember.

Today however is not about that. Or at least it's not about rehashing and reliving that. Today it's about recognising how far we have come. It is remarkably easy to forget, to become focussed on the problems of daily life and the barriers Mojo faces. Reminding myself of what we (like all of the friends we have since met who experienced the same diagnosis meeting) were told about our unborn baby, brings into very sharp focus quite how truly completely and spectacularly awesome our little girl is.

So in the spirit of a picture saying a thousand words (believe me I could!) here is my nod to this year's diagnosis anniversary using the words of the consultant in that first diagnosis meeting.

"It is very unlikely that your baby will survive to term"

Beginning to believe baby has not received memo!

"If it does it will have little or no quality of life"

Hanging with my daddy. Quality.

"It is unlikely your baby would be able to perform basic functions such as breathing and swallowing"
Breathing while I swallow this enormous ice cream
....and this pasty!

"The front of the brain is where we store our personality and your baby's fore brain is completely fused seriously damaging all the faculties we store there"

When I grow up I want to be a princess.....
...OR a ukulele playing Buzzy Bee?

"Any kind of normal life cannot be expected"

Is it normal to beat mummy at bowling?
or play with my farm?

or wave on the waves?

and finally, as I have to say I really did like our consultant and he wasn't being intentionally completely wrong....

"Of course there are sometimes miracles..."


Thankfully for us the only element of the whole meeting which turned out to be accurate was the bit about miracles. Our amazing girl. Our miracle.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Bad Days, Good Days and Pregnancy Haze

The delay in updating the blog over the summer is simple. There have barely been two days together when life has been consistent enough to allow me to compose any sentient thoughts.

The Bad (days)
It's been a difficult year so far. It's fair to say that since March Mojo has been ill on and off. General consensus is that she has simply picked up every available virus from upper respiratory to chest infections to gastroenteritis you name it she's had it. When she is ill life is exhausting, it is completely impossible not to fear the worst every time you sit in A&E. The Ng tube has been in and out like a kind of depressing hokey cokey. The pattern has generally been 10 days ill 5 days well. Despite it's repetition all year every time we get to day five you think, this is it, this is her coming out the other side of this hideous run of spring viral infections. Then when the next one arrives it is twice as depressing as the previous one.

The Bad (nights)

So why therefore has the blog not been filled with epic whinging and self-pitying lamentations I hear you ask. Well because on those days when she is well and happy she is SO well and happy that it's impossible to feel sorry for yourself. She has holidayed, played, developed, laughed and lifted our spirits immeasurably with each good day.

Posts that have been started and never completed as my mood changed include, the dawning of visible disability with the arrival of our wheelchair and our increased use of the Ng out and about. The impact that has on people's approach to Mojo and the realisation that accessibility, which I've always assumed in this day and age would be a given, really is not. An especially wallowing post about the number of A&E's we have seen this year. A post about how Mojo's achievements in signing and speech & language are so spectacular that it borders on embarrassing when we meet with the therapist and have to amend her targets monthly!

The Good 
So aside from the vacillating stress levels relating to Mojo's daily life has been the small matter of an ever advancing pregnancy. There has barely been time to think about baby other than at a strictly practical level. No, I can't get the wheelchair in or out of the car. Yes, my breathing is very compromised thanks to baby being breech and wedging her head firmly into my ribcage. Yes, I am ready for bed at 5pm. No, Mojo is not. Even recently..no, I cannot stay on my feet when I stumble carrying both my babies and yes, 17 stiches in my knee hurt. Bit of a wake up call that one. Do not even get me started on the current heat wave, oh England with your quirky unpredictable weather, how I have raged at you.

I have adjusted to my default position of exhausted tightrope walking while balancing three thousand
The Good
things on my back. I can't pretend it's been much fun. My poor husband who struggles more than I do to stay positive on the dark days (he would be the first to admit he is easily tripped into his pit of despair) has been the one holding us all up on the tightrope. It makes for quite a surreal reality but one in which I am daily grateful that I married him as I firmly believe there are many who wouldn't be able to cope with such unrelenting demands.

Then, as always, just at the point when I'm feeling the most badly done to, someone comes along and says something which pulls me swiftly from self-pity back to a crystal clear appreciation of what I have and how grateful I should be for it. On this occasion it was a conversation with my best friend who spent the afternoon with mojo and I this week and allowed me to talk her ear off about all my woes. We found ourselves talking about why pregnancy was so much more physically demanding this time around despite the emotional side being so completely different. She said, 'I remember when you were this pregnant last time your only wish was that you would get to meet your baby even if it was only for a few minutes you wanted to know her in the world' It was a simple shared memory intended to make me feel better about how crappy I was feeling. It almost took my breath away with the rawness of remembering how it felt to have that as my only wish. For that to be all I dared hope for. Looking at the smiling, babbling little girl sitting on the sofa laughing at the telly and remembering that I wasn't supposed to get to keep her, while feeling her little sister kicking madly knowing that I was allowed to expect to keep this baby, took away any physical aches, stresses and exhaustion and replaced them with the overwhelming gratitude and joy that used to be how I greeted every day. What in the name of all that is holy do I have to complain about. Me, my girls and their amazing daddy are so very happy. Yes there are bad days, bad weeks and sometimes bad seasons but no amount of bad can take away the good that we have even on the days when you have to look really bloody hard for it.

Friday, 2 May 2014

A Crisis About Confidence

We have entered unknown territory. This week was the second time we found ourselves sitting outside a sonographer's room awaiting a 20 week scan. The first time it had been exciting, we were focussed entirely on the finding out whether our baby was a boy or a girl. That is what the 20 week scan is for, right? Talk about being unprepared. Instead that scan began the chain of life-changing events and diagnoses which brought us our miraculous Mojo. Needless to say the experience second time around was somewhat different. Braced is probably the best word. We sat, braced and quiet as the time ticked by until our appointment.

Fortunately our experience second time around was completely different. 'Normal' isn't a word I like to use in relation to people, primarily because there is such a negative connotation to being abnormal. I generally use conventional because being unconventional sounds much cooler, much more like a decision we've taken not to follow the crowd. Saying all of that there was, of course, something remarkably surreal about hearing the word 'normal' in relation to our new baby. Sitting squarely along the 50th centile for all her sizes and weight. Very, very, conventional.

The relief and happiness I initially felt was accompanied by a really complicated mix of emotions that I wasn't really expecting. I was reminded all over again of how random Mojo's condition is. Ultimately we now know that there is no specific genetic reason for her HPE, she could have had a very different life. By being relieved that our younger daughter isn't, as far as we know, going to have any of the fundamental and life limiting difficulties that our elder daughter has does that betray Mojo? Is it wrong to be happy about it?

It is very much unknown territory to feel able to prepare for a new baby. We never did during the first pregnancy. We couldn't. We prepared for a new kind of life but it was one without the baby I was carrying. This time we can prepare, decorate, have entire rooms built on our house! Last time we didn't do NCT or anti-natal classes, as one doctor said to us 'It may be very painful to hear other mums complaining about their healthy pregnancy experiences'. He was right of course.

How do we deal with a conventional baby. I understand that they move around of their own accord and don't stay where you left them, that they answer back and that they get really heavy!! Will we be unimpressed by their motor skill achievements. So you can walk...well you would be able to walk because all of your brain works!

Ultimately I know that none of this will be an issue because in the same way as I worried incessantly about how we would cope with a non-conventional baby, we will cope with a conventional one in the same way. One day at a time. I also know that the one person who will struggle the least with the new addition is Mojo who will love her little sister like no baby has ever been loved (in her distinctive, slightly bite-y style).

I suppose every mother expecting her second child has days when she cannot imagine loving another child as much as she loves the one she already has, while simultaneously knowing that she just will. My case just comes with added conflicted feelings.

As for Mojo the last couple of months have been really hard work, she has bounced from one viral infection to another, piling them on top of each other and dallying dangerously with dehydration every other day. Surgery is now on the cards to give her a g-tube which will allow us to keep her hydrated during the periods of illness and hopefully limit hospital admissions. I hate the idea of her having a permanent hole in her little tummy but know deep down that it's for the best. The combination of surgery and pregnancy hormones will be a fun one. We meet with the surgical team next month so time will tell.

In the mean time after all this drama, it's back to our unconventional normal for a while thankfully!

Easter Egg Hunting!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Sibling Revelry

The relationship we have with our siblings is the longest standing one of our lives. They share our childhood, they are our first teachers and peers, early experiences with them teach us some of the basics of human interaction, sharing, kindness, empathy, humour, LOVE. I hasten to add that single children without siblings are not by any means denied any of these things and indeed, even now, my only-child husband doesn't see a huge difference between siblings and long standing childhood friends. I suppose my enthusiasm for the relationship is thanks to the siblings I have and how very much I love them. As a middle child pop psychology teaches us that I should be very much damaged by this, attention starved, third best and filled with resentment. On the contrary I have always felt very spoilt by my middle child status. I get to be a little sister and a big sister. Best of both worlds.


 My early childhood (indeed most of my life!) was spent in awe of my big sister. I wanted to be her. She taught me all the dance moves for Bananarama songs, she corrected the fact that the words were not 'guilty as a coco bean'. She was in school plays that I longed to be in. She went to university and I cried. She invited me to house parties, taught me to drink cider and blackcurrant and had her friend throw out the student who didn't understand that the fact I was 16 mean that it was NOT acceptable to chat me up. She visited me at university and warned me off the unsuitable men, while still holding my hand and providing the sympathy when, having ignored her advice, it inevitably went wrong (without a single I told you so). I was bridesmaid at her wedding and she trusted me to calm her down when an allergic reaction to the Christmas Tree threatened to leave her with a puffy face for the wedding (which it didn't thankfully!) She turned up to my wedding looking fabulous and held my hand despite the fact her 4 week old daughter had been in hospital until the night before (a fact that nobody told me!!). When we were given the agonisingly bleak diagnosis for our unborn baby she was there, she was the one who threw me a baby shower despite the fact that we knew there was a chance baby wouldn't survive. She made me realise that other people had as much hope for my baby as I did. It was hugely significant.


When my little brother was born I remember being SO proud! I was very over protective of him as a child. If he cried, I cried. One Saturday when we must have been 6, 10 and 14 my Dad flipped his lid about a mess which had been left in the kitchen. We were all summoned and told that the culprit had to confess and Dad, as an afterthought, said that if it was Greg he wasn't allowed to go to his football game in the afternoon. Knowing full well it hadn't been me I instantly confessed, knowing how upset Greg would be to miss his game. I was duly punished and shouted at. When in due course the whole thing came out Dad didn't know whether to be angry or impressed! I was in my 20s before I recognised that the tables had completely turned and I was the one subject to my brother's protectiveness. It was a long story involving a bad boyfriend and my brother's (very uncharacteristic) willingness to flatten him. His adolescent quiet nature hid a razor sharp wit which now flourishes and which has, on more occasions than I can remember, during times of crisis brought me back from the edge of tears, into laughter. His very special relationship with Mojo touches my heart regularly and watching the two of them play together makes me so happy.

People often tell me that I'm so brave and so strong in relation to the challenges we face with Mojo. My siblings taught me to be resilient, to laugh at myself, to keep perspective on the world and they helped teach me about unconditional love.

I have watched my sister's young children learning with each other, growing together and loving each other. Knowing that Mojo requires so much of our time and resources the option of expanding our family has been one I've long lamented over. I've read all the leaflets from Sibs (the wonderful organisation which supports the siblings of children with additional needs) they talk about how difficult life can be for these siblings and how easy it is for them to feel under valued and under pressure. It talks about the huge responsibilities which present themselves far earlier in life than they do for those of us with conventional sibling relationships. Would we be selfish to have more children knowing how much care Mojo requires? How would I cope with pregnancy when our daily life is so physically demanding? All of this is before we even take into consideration the possibility of a repeat HPE diagnosis. Would we be able to cope with two children with complex needs? Alternatively could we cope with the emotional wringer of genetic testing and more meetings to dictate to us whether or not it would be sensible to expand our family? Probably not.

Then there's that thing again. That thing which refused to abandon me during my pregnancy with Mojo. Call it faith, instinct, call it gut feeling, call it lunacy but its the thing that allows us to believe in lost causes, to hope for the impossible and to disregard all sensible logic in favour of hope, optimism and (far more cheesily) true love conquering all.

So, with careless disregard to genetic testing, total brushing over of day to day logistics, casual discounting of pessimism but a wholehearted assuredness that there isn't a family in the world who could love a baby, a baby with any level of needs, as much as we could, we await the arrival of Mojo's baby sister. Our hearts are full to bursting with an enthusiasm to replicate the fun, laughter, love and adventures which prevailed in our own childhoods.

Practicing 'gentle'
Mojo is learning about sisters, gentleness, sharing and kissing tummies. I came upstairs recently to overhear my husband saying 'no, no sweetheart, there's no baby in there, you don't need to kiss Daddy's tummy' it took me a few minutes to stop laughing. Can't blame her for misunderstanding. She is going to be such a fabulous big sister.

So say hi to baby..... anyone got a couple of months free early September for a bit of childcare??

*waves at world*

Monday, 31 March 2014

If you're happy and you know it!

I have a mental image of the mysterious 'blood test lab' at St George's it's underground and looks a bit like something in an episode CSI. I imagine a team of beautiful, lab-coated, bespectacled scientists sitting around an enormous back-lit glass table, heads in hands saying 'For the love of God run it again, there is no way a child of two can have a sodium of 182!'. I suspect the reality is somewhat different.

So there we were, once again with a very poorly Mojo, on the 5th Floor staring out at the view and waiting, endlessly waiting, for the result of blood tests. It's the ultimate test of my personality. I'm sure I've said this before but I'm entirely non-confrontational to the point of cheerfully letting things go that have upset, angered or hurt me for the sake of avoiding a 'scene'. It's not a personality trait I'm especially proud of, I so wish I was stronger, more assertive, less inclined to cry when I'm angry and more able to stand up for myself. So the internal battle is pretty epic. The battle between the everyday me who smiles and empathises with the insanely busy hospital staff while they tell me test results are very slow at the weekend and the sleep-deprived, stress laden parent who wants to flip tables and punch walls until people understand the importance of rapid and appropriate care for the sick child lying in the cot. My sick child. My baby.

Exhausting is an understatement. It's funny really because I never do less than when we are at the hospital. I sit still almost all day. This stay was slightly different to others primarily because we 'caught it' earlier than we would have done were it not for a routine blood test on Friday morning. This meant that rather than arriving at A&E when the sodium reached it's height we were already in the hospital and it was still climbing which scares the daylights out of doctors who don't know us. When your base line levels are significantly higher than would be tolerated by any 'normal' person your dangerous levels would be considered fatal in most.

It took five days for her to recover her normal levels and despite the fact that the underlying problems which turned out to be TWO cold viruses were still present we were able to come home. A cold. It's not a fun place to be when you realise that it could be potentially life-threatening every time your daughter catches a cold! Anyway we have new plans of action in place for prevention in future, we learn something new about management each time we go through a hospital stay. Every cloud.

Not one to dwell on these adventures Mojo was ready to play out again by day two at home and has decided her new trick will be to make great strides in her use of Makaton. It's such a brilliant way of her communicating. It allows her expression which would otherwise be almost impossible. What I especially love is the spontaneity of this progress. She now does signing along to both 'happy and you know it' and 'Head, Shoulders' as well as a rapidly expanding repertoire of animals. It's so much fun to sing with her even when you are so tired that being happy and knowing it seems a long way off!!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Fresh Eyes

Can you remember the last time you saw something which blew your mind? The last time you saw something which stunned you into a captivated silence? A time when you found yourself awestruck, heart pounding, body rigid with excitement. Can you remember feeling like this at all...ever?

One of the purest pleasures in my life is watching Mojo experience the world. Experiencing it with a level of enthusiasm reserved exclusively for toddlers (is it weird that I resent that word 'toddler', mojo doesn't toddle but she's a toddler...I've said toddle too much now, I digress). I love to watch her exploring and processing things, laughing and watching.

Mojo spends so much time in therapies, Physio, OT, Portage, Speech and Language. Each of these
programmes leaves us with homework and targets and hours of things to do. Were we to do all of this homework mojo could easily spend all day, every day 'working'. Sometimes I think maybe if we did this her progress would suddenly be textbook. The approach we take is different. We take all of the elements and targets and weave them around our normal daily life. Last week when mojo did a spontaneous new Makaton sign, Pig, we 'positively reinforced' by heading to Bocketts Farm to meet some piggies and watch them racing (Our pig won! Go Bradley Piggins!). To my mind the excitement, joy and wonder she experienced that afternoon was worth a whole day of therapy.

With our new Firefly GoTo chair the supermarket has now become a wealth of learning opportunities. Sitting up at my eye level in the trolley allows her to practice language, choosing, grasping and releasing as well as maintaining her interest in food, which is an on-going battle. The first time we went to the supermarket with the new chair was so exciting for her that it made me see the experience completely differently, A chore becomes an adventure and the scream of excitement every time we went down a new aisle makes you see groceries in a whole new light. Mojos desire to reach out and touch the bright fresh fruit, the leafy herbs, the shiny tins and the fresh crunchy bread made me suddenly LOVE all the mundane groceries I usually don't give a second thought to.

Mojo, throughout her life, has taught me to truly value the big things, like the ability to breathe and the strength to stand and the full use of all my limbs. As she gets older it's the minutiae that she renews my appreciation for. The really specific things that are amazing and we just take for granted such as...

Penguins...Recently we met our first Penguin.
This was the reaction 

Then there's how we feel about flowers...   

                                ...and birds

Oh and brand new days are pretty flippin exciting too...
...and of course Supermarket shopping.

It's almost impossible to leave the house these days without finding something else which is the most exciting thing in the whole world. It is impossible not to join her in her enthusiasm because she's not wrong. The world IS amazing and exciting and full of fantastic, hilarious things it's just that you stop thinking about it after a while and it's so much easier to focus on the negatives.

By the way I completely acknowledge how eye-rollingly irritating I must be to encounter in daily life if you are just trying to get your weekly shop done or walk a dog or just keep yourself to yourself and there we are being awestruck by the world with all the bouncy energy of a Cbeebies presenter. I can only apologise and sadly know that it will only be a phase and soon Mojo (and therefore I) will start to view the world like normal people. But for now....

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Festive fun... then back to the future!

January, Meh. Not a fan. It's cold and wet and everyone is full of germs and what's worse is that everyone is being good and dieting *shudder*.

Meeting the Bunny at my party
December, however, I LOVE. We had such an amazing one this year. Mojo's birthday was so much fun. A gang of 2 year olds at the farm meeting the animals, eating cake and singing songs. It was pretty much our idea of heaven and she had the most fantastic time. It warmed my heart to the point of bursting to see her playing with friends, squealing and laughing her spectacular laugh. I had so much fun I forgot to get overwhelmed or to wallow in the memories of the day she was born and it's rock bottom lows and unimaginable highs. We were too busy being happy, enjoying the now.
Singing with my friends!

Christmas swiftly followed bringing some well needed time with the whole extended family. Again laughter is generally the key feature of these get-togethers. Watching my husband, brother, brother in law trying to build a dolls house and a ride on car on Christmas Eve the wrong side of a few festive drinks was one to remember.

New Year was spent with friends on, a very windy, Isle of Wight. I can't remember the last time I felt so relaxed away from home. Quality time with old friends and their children, lots of food, drink, games and once again laughter. An awesome few days.

The most significant thing throughout the whole of December was the normality, the total absence of any worries about Mojo's health or happiness. She was as content as I've ever known her to be and completely well, eating, sleeping (after a fashion!) and we were just a normal family. No big deals needed to be made, she ate and played happily with her cousins and friends. She was just Mojo and we were just us. We were unrestricted, unstressed and unextraordinary.

Still in this frame of mind, feeling pretty invincibly normal, I found myself at the start of January in a seminar at the Enhanced Children's Centre. The seminar was an introduction to a course which is being offered to parents of children with multiple and complex needs. It is a tremendous resource and something which we are very lucky to be able to access. The course addresses many of the big issues we as parents face. It provides support and a safe environment to off load problems and feelings. The summary of objectives and topics covered felt, to me, like a smack in the face. It was a reminder that despite how normal we might feel, we are not. We are a family who face so many things which we have not even thought about yet. While we have found our stride now, this only served to bring into sharp focus the future and it wasn't something I was ready for. I have a very over-developed sense of empathy and I find it agonising to see the pain in other mothers as they talk about diagnosis and prognosis and daily life sadness they live with. I find myself thinking, God that must be awful, how do you cope. Then I realise that we are in the same boat. For a very innocuous meeting it turned into a fairly significant challenge on my sense of identity. Am I in denial? Does anyone view themselves in the way the world views them ('poor them')? I don't think I'm ready to take on the emotional impact of this course just yet, despite the rational side of me being able to see the obvious benefits of it.

One very positive thing that did emerge from the meeting was one way that I could categorically differentiate my experiences with those being discussed by others. I, of course, will not go into the details of other people's stories, absolutely inappropriate. What I can say is that not once have I felt that any of my friends or family have been embarrassed, ashamed or even socially awkward with us since Mojo was diagnosed during my pregnancy. Nothing has changed, we don't get tilty-headed sympathy, we are not secretly* or otherwise excluded from playdates, we are just us. I think that makes us very lucky to have such brilliant friends and family. So because I don't say it enough, you guys rock, thank you.

To end on another completely exciting note Mojo's language is suddenly developing at an astonishing rate with all kinds of new noises emerging, the most beautiful of which is ma-ma. I could listen to her say that all day. Troublingly the other word she has developed a love for is Elephant. My own mum pointed out that we must hope she does not come to associate the two new words as she's leant them at the same time. Thanks mum!

*Am presuming, dear friends, that you not having loads of secret parties without us :-)