Ella: Ten

Earlier on this week, Ella, my eldest daughter, turned ten years old.  TEN!

I can’t believe I’ve been a Mum for a decade.  As clichéd as it probably sounds, it really does feel like only yesterday that I gazed down in awe at the tiny ET look-a-like blinking up at me just moments after making her arrival into the world.  I was 23 years old and with hindsight, nowhere near ready to be a mama.  I’d never even changed a nappy – the husband (who had previous experience from when Sophie was a baby) had to show me how to do it.

On the first night in hospital after Neil left I held Ella in my arms until she slept, laid her gently in the clear plastic cot and swaddled her in the rough hospital blankets like the nurses had shown me.  I needed a wee and had no idea whether it was ok to just go and leave her, or whether I had to call someone.  Paralysed with indecision I stood uncertainly until my bladder eventually made the choice for me and I gingerly walked to the bathroom, still sore from giving birth just a few hours earlier.  Less than a minute later I returned and peeked in at Ella, expecting her to be fast asleep.

What happened next will haunt me for the rest of my life.

She wasn’t asleep at all.  She was blue.  Spasming and twisting and heaving, her face scrunched up, her mouth open in a silent scream.  Not breathing.  Her body arched in a position unimaginable in one so tiny.  An inhuman noise ripped out of my throat – the howl of a woman about to lose the one thing that she had never loved more.  Completely panicked I stood helplessly and then the woman in the bed next to me shouted at me to pull the emergency cord, snapping me out of my horror.  Frantically I willed my fingers to work, and a midwife immediately raced in, picked Ella up, turned her upside down and banged her hard on the back, over and over and over.  After what felt like an eternity but was probably in reality only seconds, the great lump of mucus that she had been choking on fell out of my baby’s mouth and into the cot and finally, FINALLY she made a sound.  A high-pitched wail like a siren.  I watched silently, completely numb, as the midwife checked her over and then gently placed her in my arms.  My legs gave way and I sat on the side of my unfamiliar bed, holding her tightly and rocking her backwards and forwards, in shock.

The midwife left and it was just me, my baby and the woman in the bed next to mine.  I started to sob uncontrollably, the terror and adrenaline and hormones and tiredness all hitting me at once.  I felt an arm around my shoulders and the other Mum gathered me to her, enveloping Ella and I in her warmth as she let me cry.  I didn’t sleep that night.

We stayed in one more night and then we were allowed to bring Ella home, even though I was still struggling to breastfeed her and she cried constantly.  She choked again at six weeks old and this time it was my husband who saved her life, her tiny body heaving in the Moses basket as his strong hands forced her airways to clear.  I was a wreck.  Months of anguish followed – everything I gave her was instantly projectile vomited back up, she wasn’t thriving and I felt like I was drowning, wondering at all the other women I could see who all seemed to have it so…together.  Their babies cooed and smiled and slept.  Mine screamed like a banshee, every item of clothing we all owned was drenched in baby sick and all I wanted was for it all to stop.

Eventually Ella got diagnosed with severe reflux and I was diagnosed with Post-Natal Depression.  With support from my incredible health visitor, my husband and our families, I gradually got better, though Ella continued to struggle with the reflux until she was almost two.  And let me tell you, reflux when weaning and on solid food is not fun at all.

I’ve never really written about this before.  I’ve wanted to.  Needed to.  Truth be told I’m not sure why I’m writing about it now but my fingers are typing and I’m not really in charge.  I guess because it’s our story.  She’s the one who made me a mother and although we didn’t have the easiest start or the best bond to begin with, she’s made me who I am today and we’ve more than made up for it in how close we are now (give or take the odd inevitable mahousive argument!)

Anyway, turning ten seems like a bit of a milestone and I wanted to document it.  I remember being enormously excited to be entering into double digits when I was her age.  She even said to me the very next day “Mummy, I definitely feel much more grown up now that I’m ten”.

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She LOVES these birthday glasses!

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Having fun in front of the camera 🙂

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BFFs

In our house, birthday celebrations for the little ones seem to go on all week (no such luck when you’re a grown up) and as her actual birthday was on a Wednesday this year the weekend each side of it has been full of birthday fun.

She decided against having a party, instead opting for a trip to the cinema with her sisters and best friend on the Saturday.  We went to see ‘Moana’, which was AWESOME (definitely worth going to watch it, especially if you have girls – it’s a brilliant message) and then came home for a takeaway Pizza Hut pizza.

On the Sunday my Mum and Stepdad (Ella’s Nana and Grandad) came to visit for the day.  They brought presents, I bought a doughnut cake (as requested by the birthday girl) – good old Asda! – and it was an absolutely lovely day.

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Making a start on the pile of presents from Nana and Grandad

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Blowing out the candles on her doughnut cake

As I said, her actual birthday was on a weekday.  I definitely think there should be some kind of rule that you don’t have to go to school or work on your birthday!  She’d begged me not to go to London like I normally do on a Wednesday, so I rearranged things and worked with clients online instead while she was at school.  We opened all her cards and presents in the morning and she was so overjoyed with every single thing she received – my heart felt it might burst with pride at how thankful she was, even with the most modest gifts.

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I set this out the night before – balloons all over the floor, sprinkles on the table, all her cards and presents, plus the giant balloons as an extra surprise

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Very happy with some sparkly nail varnish from her best friend

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Opening her present from her sisters – a set of books she’s wanted for ages. Also, I love Mimi’s expression in this shot!

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Her very own mug (she drinks tea now that she’s all grown up!)

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She’s a *little* bit obsessed with emojis, so this wrapping paper was a hit

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Absolutely thrilled to receive a camera as her main present from us

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She LOVED these giant balloons I got for her

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The birthday girl!

This weekend Sophie has come to stay and we’re all going out for a meal with the husband’s parents (Ella’s Nanny and Grandad) as well.  She’s so excited!

I’m so proud of the thoughtful, kind, caring and talented girl she’s becoming.  I know the upcoming teenage years will most likely be challenging (but then, what part of parenthood and growing up isn’t?!), but for now I’m contented to just enjoy the version of herself that she is now, knowing that she’s not who she’s going to be yet, and watching her learn and stretch herself and try things and make mistakes and get back up again and challenge herself and get to know herself.

Ella my darling, one day you’ll read this and all I want you to know is that you are loved so very much – far more than you will ever know – and the day I became your mama was one of the best days of my life.  Happy 10th birthday! 🙂

 

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4 Comments

  • Reply December 9, 2016

    Carly

    I just absolutely love reading your blog. I can relate to some of the things that you write and it makes me feel better to know that we all feel these feelings once or twice. Love to you and ur beautiful family.xx

    • Reply December 10, 2016

      Chloe Ridgway

      Oh Carly thank you! I’m so glad you enjoy reading my ramblings. Sending love back to you x

  • Reply December 9, 2016

    Martyn Steel

    Chloe,
    Your blog brought me near to tears. I knew you at about 10 years of age and have seen, enjoyed your blogs and images with great pleasure, particularly for some time through fb. Both you and I love photography. It is a joy to see your lovely work and how it has developed (pun) into a passion for you. I’m not surprised, as I love taking pictures too and was ‘hooked’ at about Ella’s age. Apart from ‘old times’ I’m sure we would have lots to chat about, specially photography. It is really interesting to see your work on fb. Let’s hope Ella gets the bug with her new camera. God bless you and your beautiful family at this Christmastime, and a happy new year!
    All good wishes,
    Martyn

    • Reply December 10, 2016

      Chloe Ridgway

      Oh Mr Steel thank you so much for your words – I really can’t explain how much it means to me that you read my posts and enjoy my images. I would LOVE to see you again after all these years – out of all the teachers I’ve had, you are the one who made the most impact on me and to be able to sit and have a long conversation with you about anything and everything. I have told my girls all about you and your stories about Venice and the times tables tests/competitions we used to have and how you introduced me to classical music. I’m sure that one day we’ll be able to co-ordinate being in London at the same time. Wishing you a wonderful festive season as well.

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