In the summer we decided that it would be good for Ava and I if she attended nursery 2 days a week. The plan was to allow me two precious days to be an ‘adult’ after 8 years of being a stay at home parent and to allow Ava to develop and learn through play with children of a similar age.
I wanted to use the time to exercise, shower uninterrupted and visit the toilet alone, all those little things that don’t happen when you have young children. I wanted to spend some time finding Hannah and getting to know her better, rather than just being Mum. I wanted to have time and space to follow my passions wherever they may lead, to improve my writing and photography, as well as spending some of that time working on this little online space. But maybe, more importantly, I knew I needed to find a better balance, to help me avoid the really dark place where I suffered from depression and anxiety after Avas birth
Being a mother is the best and most rewarding job I have ever had, and I am so fiercely proud of my four munchkins. But somedays I am just happy to get to the end of the day in one piece. Some days are constant, exhausting and thankless, and those are the days where you would give anything for personal space, a break or even just a hot drink in peace.
I am not sure if my postnatal depression was a result having another baby so close to 3 already young children, (James was 5 years old, Lily 4 and Amy 2 when Ava arrived) or it was the combination of a fourth hard pregnancy with the fourth round of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (though easier than the others, and I had some respite from the sickness in the third trimester). Then a traumatic labour and birth, when I developed sepsis in labour and had to spend a week in the hospital afterwards. I remember feeling very alone, beyond exhausted and scared. Mr T was there as much as he possibly could be, but he had our three young children to care for. I don’t think there is, or even needs a reason but Ava’s birth brought on PND and I found it really hard to break the cycle.
Avas Nursery Journey
We are really lucky that our brand new school has two-year-old provision, and Ava had the opportunity to be in the same environment and uniform as her siblings. She could see them at lunchtimes in the dining hall and it all seemed like the perfect introduction to her school journey.
She started settling in sessions, and she LOVED it. She loved the sand, exploring outside, the home corner with dolls, and cutting, drawing and painting. When I explained I was leaving to have a coffee, she was a little reluctant but okay and I sat in the next room for an hour while she had a brilliant time playing.
Ava spotted the pattern…
She then stayed for a full day and managed really well. Until she spotted the pattern. She really didn’t like being away from me and Mr T, she would get really, really upset at the start and end of her sessions. It was heartbreaking leaving her in tears, and I would call up soon afterwards to hear she had settled so I could relax and stop panicking. Mr T agreed to do the morning drop-offs to see if that would help, as she was really attached to me, and I was finding dropping her off and seeing her upset really hard emotionally. We thought it would just take a little time for her to settle in, but as the weeks went on she got worse rather than better.
She started to get upset when she realised we had chosen a uniform for her outfit that day, she would be upset and noticeably quiet at breakfast, and then no amount of distraction could stop the tears as we approached the school. At pickup time if she spotted another mummy before me, she would be in floods of tears, and when she ran over to give me a huge cuddle you could see the conflict on her face, she didn’t know if she wanted to smile because I was there, or cry because she had been so upset that I wasn’t their earlier.
Affecting her outside nursery.
It had come to a point where I think it was affecting her outside of the nursery. She’s not sleeping through and wakes a lot in the night, she gets really anxious when there are lots of people or in strange situations. She hates being separated from myself and Mr T, getting almost hysterical at points even with me when Mr T takes the children to school without spending time reassuring Ava before he leaves. In hindsight, she has had a few heartbreaking night terrors and bad dreams too, and they could be related too.
I think part of the problem is that she uses physical contact with me and Mr T for comfort, while the others can find comfort in other things, Ava’s comfort has always been in cuddles and kisses and being held. She always hated her pushchair and as a result, we have been babywearing since birth- and we still do, she loves going in the carrier and being close.
She is unbelievably focused and logical, which will be a brilliant skill set for her later in life! I have always used distraction for avoiding the negatives, soothing pain and avoiding sibling conflicts. Ava is the most difficult child to distract I have ever met, it’s really hard work as she is really REALLY focused on her wants and needs.
She is also very used to gentleness, interaction and lots of one-on-one communication. Having four children aged between 2 and 8 years, I tend to aim to talk simply but probably end up talking to them all like they are 6 years old. I do a LOT of talking and explaining. I think its helped her development because she has a really good understanding, and she’s quite good at communicating and recognising her feelings and the feelings of others, but the negative is she is so very aware of everything. She knows she feels safe and secure with us, and that’s a beautiful thing, but emotionally she’s just not ready to be apart from us and feel comfortable.
Our Auditory Learner
The nursery staff have been brilliant with her and have a very gentle and calming approach with the children. They have taken the time to reassure her and talk things through when she has been upset and Ava has really needed that to soothe her. She is an auditory learner, she learns through hearing and listening, and she loves to talk about her feelings and she can already remember all the words to several nursery rhymes and songs and will happily sing along often knowing more words than her older siblings (and me!) She can repeat episodes of pepper pig almost perfectly when she has a visual cue, and she is more likely to remember something if she has had a chance to repeat it.
As well as her struggling, I’ve been struggling too. It’s hard to concentrate when I have been worrying about Ava. We have been hoping it will get easier, but really its gone the other way and it has been harder, especially for Ava.
We have decided to take Ava out of her nursery sessions and spend some quality time making her feel more secure to hopefully ease some of the anxiety and upset she has been feeling. She will be three in May she will be able to start the 3-year-old nursery next September. I think we have to be prepared that she just might not be ready then either, and her needs have to come first.
Her emotional needs weren’t the only deciding factor, it was a little bit of everything really, including the financial pinch and things just not going to plan.
I am really looking forward to spending more time with my gorgeous little girl, especially as she is so much more able & independent than she was when we first made that decision 6 months ago. She can hold full conversations, and she wants to help and be part of everything. I am also in a much better place mentally. I am so grateful to have the flexibility to just take Ava out of nursery without worrying about a job or commitments. At the same time, I am really going to miss the time it gave me to be Hannah and I think these few weeks of that free time have made me realise just how important that is too.
We have had such a peaceful weekend this weekend. Just being together we have been to swimming lessons, played monopoly around the kitchen table and we have visited family and eaten icecreams. It’s not been action-packed, but it has given us some much needed time to recover from our colds finish up those jobs we never seem to get round to, like the last few bits of tiling in the kitchen and sorting through wardrobes. These photos were taken on our way back from visiting the children’s Nanna and Grandad.