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Follower Focus: The Windsors

We have so many fantastic followers on social media. Each and every one of them has an amazing story to tell and we wanted to share some here on thebreakingdad.co.uk. Our first ever Follower Focus is from one of our earliest followers, @WindsorFamLife, an amazing mum of five from Dorset!

I’m Gemma, 40 and a Mum of five from sunny Dorset on the South Coast, married to Darren and together we make up The Windsor Family!

My eldest daughter, Lottie (Charlotte) is 16 and she was diagnosed as having autism in June 2019. My eldest son, James is 15 and was born with Down Syndrome. My youngest son, Ollie (Oliver) is 13 and my youngest two daughters, Emily and Lucy are 7 and 5.

So, if your maths is good, you will have worked out that I had James when I was just 25, which isn’t at all common, as most women that have babies born with Down Syndrome are older mothers.

Darren and I met in 2002 and we had bought our first house together just a year later! A year later again in 2004 we had our first child and in 2005 we got married.

This brings us to December 2005, when we bought our next home and within 2 weeks of moving in we had James!

We didn’t know James had Down Syndrome and at the 12 week scan (which was the day before our wedding) they told me that I had a 1:400 chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome. Not to worry they said, you are very young! So we didn’t think of it again, until the night before I went for my C- section when it suddenly popped into my head! However as quick as the thought was there it was gone again as it was exciting to be meeting our second child.

James was born 5 days before Christmas and as they laid him on my chest in the operating theatre I was going cross eyed looking at his little nose trying to work out whose nose he had as it didn’t look like mine or Darren’s.

In recovery I tried to latch James on for a breast feed but he was so floppy and sleeping, he just wasn’t interested. So the nurse did his baby check on him instead and said to try feeding him again later.

While they did his baby check, a nurse brought me some toast and a drink, so I tucked into that not really watching the baby check but Darren however was watching and later told me they were spending extra time this time compared to our first baby’s check.

A few minutes later, the midwife went off to get a second opinion of another midwife. It was at this point they said they think our baby may have Down Syndrome as he showed several physical characteristics.

  • A flattened face, especially the bridge of the nose
  • Almond-shaped eyes that slant up
  • A short neck
  • Small ears
  • A tongue that tends to stick out of the mouth
  • Small hands and feet
  • A single line across the palm of the hand (palmar crease)
  • Small pinky fingers that sometimes curve toward the thumb
  • Poor muscle tone and loose joints

There are several different characteristics and James had most so they said they would send for a blood test to confirm if he had Down Syndrome but it would be 5 days for the results.

We took one look at him and it was like the penny had dropped! That’s why we couldn’t quite place his little nose, why he couldn’t latch to breastfeed and why he was so sleepy.

They then said he needed warming up and a tube feed of some formula as he hadn’t fed since birth, so they popped him in the hot cot for the night while I was on the ward expressing breastmilk like fury!

I didn’t get to hold him again until the next morning which was really hard. Once I was able to get up and walk I was straight in to see him and it wasn’t long before he was on the ward with me again.

We stayed in hospital for 6 days, which included Christmas Day which was heart wrenching as it was our first Christmas in our new house and our baby girl was at home without her Mummy on Christmas morning.

We came home Boxing Day night once James had finally managed a bottle feed and had his tube removed!

It hit Darren hard the first day he was told James had Down Syndrome and he came home and cried.

For me, it was a case of carrying on being James’ Mummy. He was a baby who needed me. However as the months went on and all my other baby friends’ children hit their milestones, it started to sink in that James had Down Syndrome and what this meant for him. It hit me hard around 6 months – I went onto antidepressants and was at an all time low.

However with time and support, I got better and excited that James is just an absolute superstar!

He is 15 now and has proved to me he can do anything he wants to in life!

If you’d like to share your story, drop us an email on [email protected] and let’s talk!

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Parenting Thoughts

5 things about parenthood NOTHING can prepare you for

Parenthood is the best, without a shadow of a doubt.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to take it as a given that parenting is the best thing ever.

You’re in safe hands, what you read from here is going to be our little secret. I won’t tell if you won’t…

Now, it’s time to dispense with the niceties about raising kids and…just tell the truth.

It’s bloody difficult.

I don’t know about you, but before I became a Daddy I definitely thought I would be awesome at it.

The following things used to drive me insane:

  • Children who cried on planes and the parents who didn’t ‘deal with it’
  • Parents who plonked phones in front of children at restaurants to keep them quiet
  • Parents who didn’t deal with temper tantrums

I could go on.

“Why don’t you just pull yourself together and just parent!?”

I mean it can’t be that hard, right?

GIF of Gordan Ramsey shouting, "Wrong"

Oh, how wrong I was.

My brother and his wife recently had a baby and by his own admission, it’s been a bit of a shock.

Nothing can truly prepare you for the stress, worry and often despair that children can bring.

I’ve learned so much about myself since becoming a parent.

To be honest, you won’t find most of them in an instruction manual, so I thought I’d share them.

Here goes.

Here are 5 things about parenting that NOTHING can prepare you for.

1. The first few months of parenthood is essentially sleep deprivation torture

Man looking tired and saying he hasn't slept in four years

We’re all patient, positive and happy creatures when we’re well-rested.

The problem is, resting well doesn’t generally come with the territory when a baby comes along.

A newborn baby hasn’t yet learned the sleep manners and protocols we’re so used to and trust me, they’ll let you know about it.

Using their greatest weapon in the battle against restful sleep, your baby will let out a cry that has so efficiently evolved over many thousands of years to be as awful to listen to as possible.

Just as you think you’ve settled them, they’re ready for round two.

…and three.

…and four.

Ever tried running on empty? It sucks.

We get irrational and we get very grumpy.

Those bags under our eyes? They’re now permanent shady little fixtures under what was once a pair of gleaming, bright and wistful eyes.

Data from thousands of men and women shows rest is at its worst three months after birth and could last up to six years.

See you in a few years, sleep. It’s been fun.

The early days are tough for sure, but it gets easier. You can never underestimate the importance of taking time for yourself and should work together as parents to find time to decompress.

I often say you can’t pour from an empty cup and sometimes having five minutes to recharge those batteries is necessary, particularly if you’re not sleeping much!

2. You were woefully under-prepared for parenthood.

Man shaking his head and saying, "I'm not ready"

I remember the first time I got behind the wheel of a car for a driving lesson.

I was terrified.

I’d watched people driving all my life and I’d been in the passenger seat countless times.

But everything looked SO DIFFERENT from the driver’s seat and suddenly the driving instructor’s life was in my hands.

That’s parenting.

I remember holding Evie to my chest for the first time and being so absolutely blown away by the beauty [and horror] of childbirth.

Side note:
There is no time in a man’s life that are more totally redundant as when they watch a woman, surrounded by other women, bring a life into this world.

If you can witness something like that and EVER suggest men are superior to women, you should probably stop existing.

When I held Evie for the first time it dawned on me that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

Putting her little [ish…Evie was 9lbs 11 when she was born] arms and legs into her first babygrow, I knew that I was the beginning of a long journey of discovery.

I felt hopelessly ill-equipped for it.

I often talk about parenthood as being like a secret club; you suddenly appreciate how much other parents we know are pretty much just blagging it!

3. Parenthood is EXPENSIVE.

I have never had less money in my life than in the first year after Evie came along.

Pushchairs, cots, bottles, formula, clothes, bibs, dummies and nappies…

…Oh, the nappies.

To be honest, I stopped typing the list because it’s not fair on you as a reader.

The point is, it’s a lot of stuff.

Even now, the biggest proportion of my disposable income goes on Evie by far.

It probably always will.

I’m OK with that.

That said, some of the best fun we ever have together is when we’re finding things to do at home on a budget.

If you’d have told me before I joined the ‘glamourous’ world of parenthood that I’d be making home-made ‘rainbow rice‘ and routinely baking with my little munchkin, I wouldn’t have believed you!

4. You WILL be that annoying parent who posts takes too many photos.

It’s early September.

The glistening summer sun is starting to beat its end-of-season retreat and autumn is on its way.

It’s here.

The kids are going back to school…

You make one fatal mistake.

You open Facebook or Instagram.

All-of-a-sudden, your feed is swamped with pictures of your friend’s child stood uncomfortably, harbouring a forced and uncomfortable-looking, grimace-like smile.

Why? Because it’s an important to parents, for some reason.

I mean, the biggest difference is that they’re wearing a different outfit know as, ‘School Uniform‘.

There they stand in all their generic glory, boasting a pitiful shade of red, blue or green.

Some kids, if they’re really unlucky, wear brown.

You’ll know the ones, they always look like they’ve accidentally stumbled across a time machine that warped them from World War II.

Why does the fact your child is wearing a school uniform for the first time in the school year mean anything at all?

Bad news Brenda, your kid looks the same in that picture as they did yesterday; the key difference being that they’re not wearing the unfortunate outfit you chose for them in the misguided pursuit of stylishness.

“I’ll never be one of those parents who over-shares their child’s meaningless milestones on social media because nobody’s interested.”

I mean, those are words I SAID.

Certainly not words I live by.

From the moment your kid enters this world, every single development is precious.

I’ll level with you.

At this moment in time, I have 37,995 photos stored on Google Photos account.

Screenshot of Google Photos storage with 37,995 photos

I shudder to think how many of those are of Evie.

The first time she opened her eyes, the first time she smiled, the first time she laughed (that was a video in case you’re wondering), the first time she slept on her tummy, the first time she had solid food…

Honestly, it’s ridiculous.

What’s more surprising is I could go back and pinpoint each photograph and when it happened, but I can’t find my car keys and wallet from 10 minutes ago.

Do you want to see the first time Evie went in a swing? No?
Baby daughter uses a swing for the first time

Too late, sorry – it was a milestone and I cared about it, so I shared about it.

After having children, you see that they very quickly become the centre of your universe.

If people don’t want to see it, they’ll soon fall out of your orbit.

Oh and a confession:

Evie’s first day at school was magical.

As a parent, I was absolutely bursting with pride to see my baby all dressed up in her smart little uniform and ready to kickstart her education.

So, Brenda…

Please accept my apologies; I will be posting every year for the foreseeable.

5. You’ve changed.

Children painting a father's feet

Up until the day your child was born, your life was yours.

  • Fancy a nap? Crack on.
  • Want five minutes peace and quiet? Sure thing.
  • Fancy nipping to the gym? Go flex ’til your little heart’s content.

Until you have children, you’re the custodians of your own destiny.

Whatever you fancy doing with your other half this weekend – you can.

[Within reason…we’ve just been plunged into another national lockdown]

Parenthood changes you, permanently. I can’t honestly tell you whether it’s for the better or worse, everybody’s different.

If you have children, see if you can relate:

  • I often look back at the first 27 years of my life and know that I”ll NEVER again underestimate the value of a nap.
  • Snot GROSSES me out, but I’ll regularly wipe it from Evie’s nose with my bare hands so she doesn’t have to be snotty.
  • Being urinated on, farted on, thrown up on and covered in poo…is, unfortunately, par for the course.
  • I HATE sharing food, but Evie can have whatever she wants…even if she decides she doesn’t like it and spits it back onto my plate.
  • I’m VERY GOOD at playing Mums and Dads
  • I’m AWFUL at doing Evie’s hair.
  • I smile KNOWINGLY at new parents who say they’re finding a newborn difficult when they haven’t yet experienced a two-year-old.

As somebody who has yet to or chosen not to have children, you might look at that list and think it sounds horrific…

For the parents reading, you’ll know that all of this stuff contributes to that magical journey we call parenthood.


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