I wrote one of these open letters to your brother when he was your age, so I thought it only fair to write one to you too. You are only 16 months old at the moment, but one day, whether it be for an emotional 18th Birthday present or an embarrassing wedding speech, you’ll learn how much you mean to the world. You have always been a strong-minded, independent woman, from deciding to be born on your own time, not the hospital’s schedule, to walking 3 months earlier than expected. You relish asserting your dominance with your favourite word, ‘no’, and by the time you read this, you’ll probably think that you know everything about everything… but here, my darling Jess, are 10 things that I never told you:
- You have the best big brother ever
Joshua was stoked to have a new addition to the family, even before you were born. He used to talk to you in my tummy and watch as you used my internal organs as a punching bag. He held you when you were first born and talked about you to every stranger we met. He helped feed you, shared his toys with you, protected you from harm, and when you started walking, he held your hand in the park. But my favourite memories of all are the countless times when he made you laugh, sometimes to the point where you were sick. You and Joshua had the same addictive, contagious laugh that could light up a room. You truly do have the best big brother ever.
- You were loved even before you existed
It took 4 years in total, from first wanting another baby to the moment you were born. It had taken 18 months and some medical intervention to have your brother, so I had prepared myself that it might not be straight forward. But the weeks became months and the months became years, and with each failed attempt my heart became heavier and heavier. I was in hospital every 7 days at one point, having tests, procedures, drug trials and injections. Every month we handed over another £500 for medications and every month nothing showed up on the scans. It turns out that a mixture of Pelvic Congestion Syndrome, Polycystic Ovaries and rock bottom Oestrogen levels meant that the odds were against us. But we never gave up. And here you are. So the next time you are having a bad day or a dip in self esteem, just remember that we fought so hard to bring you into this world and you were loved even before you existed.
- I loved dressing you up
I am, and for the most part always have been, a Tomboy. I shave half my head and would choose motorbike leathers over high heels any day. Growing up I played with Tonka Trucks over dollies and was on the U16 rugby team. But from the day you were born and we inherited a bunch of hand-me-down dresses, I have loved dressing you up like a little princess. Glitter and sequins galore! The difference between you and Josh is that whereas he never liked putting clothes on at all and would embrace the nakedness (he gets that from his father), you take any opportunity to dress up whether it be in your clothes, my clothes or items stolen from some unsuspecting child at nursery. Your favourite things are handbags and things that fit on your head, including hats, bowls and nappies. So baby girl, Viva La Diva for as long as you can, before you grow up and decide that you’re a Tomboy like your mum.
- You put me into labour twice
You were due, by some strange twist of fate, to be born on the same day as Joshua, 4 years apart. And on that day, my contractions started. They got worse throughout the day, and since Josh was born on his due date, I prepared myself for the inevitable. Or what I thought was inevitable… until it wasn’t. After 24 hours, the contractions stopped and you settled back down for an entire week, to the point where the hospital booked me in to be induced. I was so huge by that point that people legitimately asked if I was having twins! The day before the induction, you broke my waters, half way through an Asda delivery and off to the hospital we went, hoping that it was second time lucky. At around 2am you got stuck and after an hour we found out that your umbilical cord was unusually short, meaning that every time I tried to push you out, you were pulled back in, as if on a tiny bungee cord. My Aerial Bungee clients found this analogy particularly amusing… me, not so much at the time.
- We have had a special bond since the day you were born
They say that when you hold your baby for the first time, all the pain goes away and you form an instant bond. This is not always true. When Joshua was born, the only thing I felt was exhaustion. I suffered from postnatal depression and struggled to bond with Josh for the first 6 weeks. So, I was prepared not to feel that instant magic this time around. But when they placed you in my arms, you looked at me with those big eyes of yours and we connected straight away. You were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and I was overcome with a warmth and feeling of love. We continued that special bond as I breastfed you until you were 14 months old. I did receive some negative comments and pressure to give this up as you were “no longer a baby”… but I wasn’t ready to let go.. In the end it happened organically – you stopped asking for milk and I stopped producing… but we still maintain that special bond to this day.
- You had 3 amazing Great Grandparents
Although you won’t remember them, you had 3 amazing Great Grandparents – Nanny Freda, Nanny Jess and Grandad Ernie. Unfortunately we lost all of them in the same year.
When you were just 2 weeks old, I took you to see Nanny Freda. She was such a kind soul and always had a way with children. It was between the first and second Covid lockdowns, so was a very uncertain time, but I’m so glad that I took you. I think that there was a part of her that had been holding on to meet her great granddaughter, and when she held you in her arms, there was something in her brain that said that she had done everything she wanted to do and seen everything she had wanted to see, and that she could go to sleep now. And she did.
Five months later, Nanny Jess passed away. Although you were too young to know, Nanny Jess was a master of Arts & Crafts. Your auntie Fran and I spent our childhood making, baking, sewing and growing with Nanny Jess. There wasn’t anything she couldn’t do. Of course, none of this would have been possible without constant refreshments from Grandad Ernie, who was the kindest gentleman on Earth. You’ll learn, Jessica, that good men are few and far between, but Grandad Ernie was a stellar example of a good Human Being. Grandad was poorly for a very long time, and part of me thinks he held on against the odds for Nanny Jess. I saw him just a couple of weeks ago and not only did he recognise me, but we had a conversation for a whole 2 minutes, which was the longest he had been conscious all day. Then he closed his eyes and went to sleep. I can’t think of a better last memory of him.
So, Jess, I hope that you will inherit Nanny Freda’s kind nature, Nanny Jess’s creative talents, and Grandad Ernie’s strength & resilience.
- I always put you first
I know there will be times in your life when we fall out or you disagree with my decisions, but please know that to paraphrase Bryan Adams, everything I do, I do it for you. I’ve had to make some really difficult choices in the past, but I have always had your best interests at heart. From trivial things like enduring the wrath of your temper tantrum because I wouldn’t let you eat rocks, to skipping breakfast because it was more important to get you to school on time. I think the hardest thing has been getting the work-life balance right. I currently juggle 3 jobs just to pay for childcare… childcare I need just to be able to work (to pay for the childcare – and so the cycle continues). At the same time, I often turn down extra work so that I have enough time to spend with you and your brother. It’s a really delicate and difficult balancing act, because as hard as I try, you can’t please everyone all of the time… whether it be not making deadlines, not replying to emails quick enough, not magicing up and additional 15 minutes before school run so your brother can have an unscheduled poo, or not totalling more than 4 hours sleep a night. But know that at the heart of all my decisions, are you and Josh.
- You Saved my life (on numerous occasions)
When I was pregnant with you, I suffered from Prenatal depression. It didn’t help that we were at the start of a Gobal Pandemic, my business had been closed and I felt increasingly isolated. At times my mind went to very dark places, and although I had very little respect for my own life, the knowledge that yours depended on me, kept me going. Soon after you were born, I suffered with postnatal depression which over a period of just months escalated to Clinical Depression, Chronic Anxiety and Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). During this time I was referred to mental health charities such as Harmless and The Samaritans after considering taking my life on several occasions. They asked me what my ‘safety’ was – the thing that I held on to. It was you, Jessica. It was always you. You’ll never know it, but you saved my life, for which I am eternally grateful.
- I would do it all again
Being a mum is both the hardest and most amazing thing I’ve ever done. Any time I have a bad day, I remember that there are two pet humans out there who need me and love me unconditionally. Your cheeky smile and infectious laugh can brighten up even the darkest of days. The sleepless nights and leaking nappies are all worth it to get another one of you in the world. The world needs more pet humans like you.