The Diary of a Stressed Out, Sleep-Deprived Mother Part 4. Potty-Training, Puking and Partying……

A lot has happened since my last diary entry, but a few things have not changed at all. Most notably, my chaotic lifestyle and clueless parenting journey remain almost exactly the same as when I last shared my escapades with you. This particular story begins over the August bank-holiday weekend, which was a bit of a scorcher this year as opposed to the usual rain that is frequently experienced on landmark weekends during the usually unreliable British summer.

My husband and I had seen that the weather forecast for the long weekend was supposed to be excellent and so we had set about making some plans to keep ourselves and the kids occupied (nursery being closed over the long weekend means you must plan a variety of activities to exhaust your children more strategically than the most cunning war mastermind on the planet). As usual we planned to take the kids to the cricket club on the Saturday where they could watch Daddy playing and Henry could throw a cricket ball around the border like a madman whilst intermittently shouting “SHOT!” when someone in the game hit a six or a four (usually he shouts when the opposition do this resulting in some strange looks from the home crowd, but it’s a bit much to expect an almost two year old to understand the concept of teams just yet). After watching a bit of the game, I was going to drop into my friend’s baby shower along with Nanny and the boys. I had even spoken with my friend a few weeks previously and had agreed to make her a cake for the occasion, as I enjoy baking a lot and thought this would be a nice gesture. On the Sunday we planned to drive to the seaside along with Nanny and “Gangad” (as Henry calls his granddad) because we figured this would entertain the kids no end and also because there are few opportunities to enjoy England’s beaches most of the time. Now, as you will know very well by now, my stories rarely involve anything going to plan. Of course, the bank holiday weekend made for no exception to this rule.

On the Friday night I had just put the kids to bed when I began feeling very tired. I lay on the downstairs sofa whilst waiting for dinner to be ready, but whilst lying there I notice that my body has started to ache all over. I think this is just the usual “I’m a mother to young children and so I never sleep” related tiredness, but I realise I have no appetite and so I apologise to my husband, direct him to the now cooked dinner, and tell him I’m going to have to get an early night. I have also had to abandon the idea that I will finish decorating my friend’s cake after dinner, because I simply don’t have the energy.

Unfortunately, whilst in bed, I suddenly realise that I’m probably going to be sick and so I take myself to a place of safety (a.k.a. the bathroom floor). Soon the inevitable happens and I am throwing up, have a fever and feel seriously grim. My husband is downstairs and is none the wiser until I hear the children crying in between vomiting and have to text him (moving from the bathroom is too dangerous at this point) and ask him if he can see to them because I am in the bathroom throwing up. He settles the kids and takes the baby monitor downstairs with him. A few hours later, he comes upstairs to go to bed and checks in on me. I am lying on the bathroom floor with both of the children’s towels draped over me for warmth (they weren’t very warm at all in case you were wondering because they are baby sized towels and were also damp following the evening bath a few hours earlier). He asks how I am and I tell him I think I am going to risk going to sleep in the spare room now and see how things go. Luckily, I manage to get some sleep and the vomiting has stopped. However, when he comes to see how I am in the morning my body is still aching everywhere and I have such a high fever that the morning eggs could easily have been fried on my forehead. He ushers me back in to our bed and he gets the kids ready. Shortly afterwards, Nanny arrives with her friend who is joining us for the weekend and they all take the kids with them to watch the cricket with plans to drop in on the baby shower later. Before I turn over and try and sleep this illness off, I text my pregnant friend and say that unfortunately I am not going to make it today because I am sick and also I apologise that the cake is also not complete owing to the fact that I seem to have contracted the plague halfway through trying to decorate it. As I close my eyes I reflect on the fact that I used to hardly ever get sick (despite being an intensive care doctor and probably being exposed to germs all the time) but since having kids I have contracted several infectious diseases- this occasion marks about the 6th just this year on which I have vomited thanks to some hideous child-borne virus, for instance (we will exclude pregnancy-induced sickness from this count). “This is certainly a record for me” I say to myself as I drift off to sleep.

Later on I am woken when Nanny arrives home with the kids. She and her friend have dinner reservations shortly at a local restaurant. They have very kindly bathed the kids for me and so all I have to do is get them changed and in to bed in about an hour and a half. Nanny’s friend greets me with a sharp intake of breath as I walk into the lounge where she is holding baby Edward. I realise that my suspicions are confirmed by this reaction and that I most likely resemble a corpse at this point in time. Worse still, I am of course wearing no make-up, thus showing off my natural ghost-like skin tone. “Will you be ok on your own with them?” she asks, looking worried in much the same way as my best friends from university did when they realised that their once frequently drunken housemate was now a mother of two. I tell her I will be fine (I don’t want them to miss their dinner plans, especially since they have very kindly taken the kids off my hands today- forcing them to go hungry would not be appropriate, I conclude). They leave me to it and I immediately go into extreme survival mode and crack out the “big guns.” Yes, any mother will know what these are- chocolate and television. We are frequently told how bad sugar and screens are for children, but desperate times call for desperate measures and I am past caring at this point. I lie on the sofa feeling sorry for myself for about an hour whilst my eldest son runs riot around the lounge devouring chocolate more enthusiastically than Bruce Bogtrotter whilst squealing and laughing with delight as he thinks all of his Christmases have come at once. He dials random numbers on the phone (goodness knows who he called that night), throws cricket balls all around the kitchen (I am oblivious to any damage he may be doing at this point), he makes as much mess as he wants, and he watches as much TV as he likes. Finally, I glance at my watch and see that it is an acceptable time to put them to bed and so I haul them both upstairs and tuck them in after putting them in their pyjamas. I then go back to bed, where my husband finds me after negotiating his way through the bomb-site like living room when he arrives back from his (obviously, it would be today) prolonged cricket match.

The following morning I am still not recovered. My husband tells me a trip to the seaside will “do me good” but I tell him rather patronisingly that I cannot think of anything much worse than going on a 2.5 hour car journey in scorching heat whilst feeling this unwell. When he shoves the kids’ thermometer in my ear and sees that I am a still running a fever he accepts my excuse and heads to the beach with the kids, Nanny and “Gangad”. Throughout the day, I receive pictures of the boys enjoying their first trip to the beach. The weekend proves to be glorious as promised. It seems I am probably the only person who was under a thick duvet, shivering with a fever for most of it!

The boys enjoying their first trip to the beach

The following week, Edward, my youngest is due to start nursery. I had planned to start him there a few months before going back to work because, having learned from experience with Henry, starting nursery exposes them to every bug going and they spend most of the first few months getting intermittently sick and having to come home. Edward really trumps Henry in this department though, and ends up unwell before he’s even supposed to start there, and so he misses his first few days. The most likely thing is that he’s caught the illness I had over the long weekend. He has all the same symptoms- fever, vomiting, and being generally miserable. My parents are staying with us ready to attend a local wedding the following weekend and as I am trying to comfort my unwell son my Dad turns to me and anxiously says “he seems to be a very unhappy little man. I think he needs a doctor.” I look my Dad in the eye and remind him that “Dad, I am a doctor!” He blinks a few times and starts laughing when he realises what he’s just said, but joking aside, I know he’s right and that I should really be getting a third party to examine my child and check I am not missing anything (because as I always say, it’s very hard to doctor your own children). Plus, I have looked at his throat and seen that his tonsils are swollen and covered in pus and so he probably needs antibiotics. Obediently I make an appointment at the GP and when he attends they agree it is most likely a virus but that they also agree that antibiotics are justified given the state of his tonsils. For once I have correctly diagnosed my child and not labelled him as “a teething baby” when he is, in fact, hideously ill.

During the course of the last month or so, Henry has decided that it is time to start potty training. This came as an unwelcome surprise for me because, with him only just approaching his 2nd birthday, I thought I had at least 6 more months before I had to even contemplate this. However, he has seen others using the toilet at nursery and so has decided to join in. He got the hang of number 2 very quickly, but, being an amateur, he still frequently requests the potty when he has nothing more than wind to expel. This results in a lot of false alarms, but of course, no one knows which alarms are false and which aren’t and so you have to give him the benefit of the doubt each time. This means a lot of running back and forth, up and down the stairs and to and from the bathroom for both me and him (when friends comment on what a good job I’ve done losing the baby weight, I tell them I’m on a new exercise regime known as “the potty training workout”). Henry has also been a bit constipated intermittently, and I have found myself sat beside him, holding his hand and yelling “PUSH!” to encourage him as he sits there straining from time to time. I can’t help but chuckle to myself when I try and remember where I have heard this before and then realise that this is remarkably similar to the encouragement I got when I was in labour and trying to give birth to him! He kept me majorly on my toes when I was helping Nanny to prepare the cricket tea at the last game of the season recently.

Remarkably, after a season plagued by a lot of Saturday rain and thus, match cancellations, we were met with a glorious mid-September weekend for the last game and the cricket was set to go ahead without any hiccups. Nanny and I arrived at the start of the match and began to prepare the last bits of the tea (I had made several cakes to bring along and she had prepared the sandwiches at home prior to arriving). In between us sorting the food, which involved cooking items such as pizzas, potato wedges etc and setting out a chilli and various cakes, Henry was frequently requesting the toilet. There were several false alarms (wind) before anything happened. Meanwhile, my husband’s team had decided to play an absolute blinder during the last game and the opposition’s wickets were dropping like flies. With me frequently absent from the kitchen thanks to Henry’s frequent toilet trips, Nanny was left a bit in the deep end when it came to preparing everything. Realising that the first half was drawing rapidly to a close, she was becoming more and more frantic when it came to trying to get all of the refreshments out on time. When about 8 or so wickets had fallen, Henry was finally ready to produce something on the toilet. I went with him and he sat there. He began straining and as I realised this was the real deal, I had to make sure that his little willy was not sticking out over the toilet (as I would have got sprayed with urine in the process if it was). I was trying to make sure it was contained in the toilet, but this proved difficult, and so I had to shout “put your willy in! put your willy in! PUT YOUR WILLY IN!” (meaning in the toilet) as he strained. Goodness knows what on earth anyone passing by the vicinity of the toilet must have thought when they heard that coming from the inside of the cubicle! Finally, Henry did his business and I was finally able to assist Nanny with the rest of the tea.

By this time, we had bowled the opposition out for about 70 odd (this is a very short first half) and we were not ready with the teas (especially given the disruption caused by the constipated, flatulent toddler). We kindly asked the umpire for a bit more time, but he refused and said “we take tea in 10 minutes!” Interesting, I thought, because it isn’t ready you utter asshole! Somehow we managed to get the tea out on time, albeit being significantly sweaty and stressed as a result (this is mostly down to Nanny’s efficiency, not mine, I hasten to add).

Some cakes that were made for the cricket tea

With that being the last game of the cricket season, the club always throws an “end of season” cricket party. This is usually a much anticipated event and it frequently involves a bit too much alcohol being consumed. This year, my husband and I were very lucky that we were going to be able to attend this event child-free because Nanny had kindly offered to have the boys for the night. It was also the first time since 2016 that I was going to be able to drink because I had been heavily pregnant at this event for the last two years. The theme was 1980s and so we had agreed, after seeking suggestions from others, to go as Mario and Luigi from Super Mario (this first came out in 1985). We also agreed that whereas we would have a few drinks and “be merry” that we probably shouldn’t get too carried away since we would have the kids the next day.

I won’t go in to too much detail, but of course we did not stick to this agreement. Pretty much as soon as we set foot in to the alcohol serving establishment, our eyes lit up like those of two kids in a candy store, and we quickly began sinking drinks. The last thing I remember about the evening was doing a series of chilli sambuca shots behind the bar, James finding me unconscious in the club cellar surrounded by beer barrels (much like Prince John discovering his inebriated side-kick, Sir Hiss, immersed in a barrel of Ale in the Disney cartoon adaptation of Robin Hood), and then vomming over a tree in the club grounds shortly after this (this made for the 7th vomit of the year, just for the record). The following morning, I awoke and announced I was heading to church. James quickly put me in a headlock and sternly told me that I would be going nowhere anytime soon. This is how badly behaved and irresponsible parents can be when they get a much anticipated child-free night! James then laughed and told me how lots of people had been “concerned about my level of drunkenness” at the party and we both laughed in unison when we reminisced about the fact that we all behaved much like that virtually every week when we were at medical school (med students are renowned for working hard and playing harder).

Mario and Luigi up to no good

Later in the day, when we had tried, rather unsuccessfully, to sleep off our hangovers, Nanny arrived back with the children. She broke the bad news to us that Edward was suffering with that common childhood ailment known as “the sh*ts.” James and I looked at each other, trying not to cry. Nanny was indeed correct and Edward sh*t all up his back and down his leg periodically throughout the day. The icing on the cake (and, one might argue, our ultimate comeuppance, for behaving like a pair of drunks the night before) came during the boys’ evening bath. As I sat trying my best to interact with them whilst simultaneously feeling like death, I heard Henry say “Mummy, dirty!” I edged closer to the bath to investigate the reason for his sudden outcry and to my horror I discovered that Edward had had another loose bowel movement in the bath and that both kids were now bathing in diarrhoea. I called urgently for James and he came upstairs, bringing with him two surgical masks. We drained and re-ran the bath and hosed both of the boys down. When we eventually got them into bed we agreed that karma had really bitten us both in the backside that day. After I have put the boys to bed, I stumble upon a suspicious item on the floor, which looks exactly like a stray piece of excrement (cats? children? I question in my mind). Cautiously, I approach it whilst wearing rubber gloves, armed with an abundance of baby wipes. I pick it up and, to my relief, I realise it is nothing more than a shrivelled, autumnal leaf! Throughout the day, James has been complaining of sore feet, and he has attributed this to his cricket shoes rubbing at the weekend. I give him a foot massage before we go to sleep and it looks like he has nothing more serious than a blister on his big toe (men! I think to myself, whilst remembering that he is probably just feeling a bit fragile thanks to his hangover).

The highly suspicious autumnal leaf

The following day, my husband has gone to work and when I am in the kitchen preparing the evening meal for later he sends me a text message asking if I’ve seen the announcement from nursery. I say yes I have- there has been an outbreak of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease a.k.a. HFM (contagious viral illness- common in children) there and so we need to look out for signs and symptoms in the children. I am not especially worried about Henry as he had this last year and so is likely immune, but I resign myself to the fact that Edward is most likely doomed. James then tells me that he thinks he has HFM. I tell him to stop being so dramatic and that he likely just has a two day hangover (common in those over 30), but I ask him to send me a picture anyway. To my surprise, he sends me a picture of his hands and mouth and now the reason for his sore feet is suddenly apparent. He is riddled with HFM and has blisters and ulcers all over his hands, feet and mouth. I text him back and tell him he must leave work immediately and come home. Later he speaks to his department and they confirm he is infectious and that he needs 10 days off work! They also comment on how rare it is to see HFM in an adult (most are immune even if they don’t recall having had it as a child). I told you children were vectors of hideous viral illnesses.

Towards the end of this period of time, Henry celebrates his second birthday, making me officially a graduate of the infamous “2 under 2 club.” His turning 2 means one thing and one thing only; he went to bed at the age of 1 year and 364 days an angel and woke up aged 2 years and 0 days a total asshole! I go to collect him from nursery that day and they are holding a bake sale. There are a variety of cakes set out on a table near the entrance, just below the first flight of stairs. I have stupidly worn very high heels today because we are due to go straight out for dinner and as I am coming down, I narrowly miss falling face first into a particularly colourful rainbow buttercream iced cake. Luckily my Mum is in front of me on the stairs and breaks my fall.

For Henry’s birthday we enjoy a family meal in a steakhouse (he loves steak). I have had to emergency buy him a “Colin Caterpillar” cake (Henry refers to caterpillars as “pillars” at the moment) because I have not had time to bake having been away at a wedding in the Lake District over the previous few days. When he receives his cake and we have sung happy birthday to him somewhat discordantly, he pauses, smiles, and then points to a small chocolate button on the “pillar’s” rear and says “it pooed!” We all erupt in laughter.

The next day, it seems as though the legendary “terrible twos” have well and truly started. He stomps around the kitchen demanding “more chicken, more chicken, MORE CHICKEN!” despite the fact that his plate is stacked plentifully with chicken. He has received a toy ice cream cart for his birthday, which is his new favourite toy for the time being. He refuses to put the fake ice cream back at night and now insists on taking it to bed with him. He is back and forth to the potty and frequently tries to get up and then sit on the floor before he has his bum wiped, thus risking sh*t stains being smeared all over the carpet, and he throws himself into a heap on the floor whenever he doesn’t get his own way. “Welcome to the terrible twos!” I say to my HFM-riddled husband, “I can’t wait until he’s a “THREEnager!”

The little birthday boy with his Colin Caterpillar Cake

He points to the “pillar’s” backside and declares “it pooed!”

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