Another day, another milestone.
Today it was Ethan’s first time at playschool.
I’ve been so excited for him to start – Grace was graduating when he was a babe in arms and she adored her time there, so he’s had his name down from before he was even born.
But how has this time come around already?!
It seems like only yesterday that we were bringing him home from hospital, a tiny, helpless newborn.
Like Grace, his arrival into the world wasn’t what we had expected.
First of all came the heartache just to get pregnant and carry a baby to term – and then the little rascal decided to make an appearance five weeks early.
We had been for lunch at the Ramore in Portrush to celebrate my mum’s birthday and we’d gone back to my parent’s house afterwards for tea and cake.
I felt so exhausted that Mr S told me to go upstairs and have a sleep, he would take Grace home and I would follow afterwards once I felt rested.
I woke a few hours later with twinges in my tummy.
Drinking a cup of tea before I drove home, I mentioned the pains to my dad.
“I hope you don’t end up giving birth on the Glenshane Pass or you’ll have to call the baby Ponderosa,” he laughed.
I laughed too, but part of me was starting to quietly worry about these pains that were coming a little too frequently for my liking.
Once home I got into bed, still trying to ignore the tightenings in my belly.
“This couldn’t be it, there’s still five weeks to go, I’m booked in for a section,” I thought.
I actually woke my husband at one stage to tell him what was happening.
“Just try to get some sleep,” he said, as he rolled back over.
So, I did what any woman does in a situation like this – I started texting my best friend for advice.
We messaged back and forward for over an hour, me telling her every time the pain came, joking about me going into labour early until it wasn’t funny anymore and she advised me to ring the hospital.
Still I couldn’t believe it was real – we hadn’t decorated the nursery, I hadn’t even packed a bag and worst of all, I hadn’t waxed my legs – I wasn’t ready for this.
Eventually, at about 3am, I couldn’t ignore it anymore so I woke my husband again.
I’d been recording the timings of the pains on my phone, so I handed it to him to check.
It normally takes him at least an hour and several strong cups of coffee to waken up but seconds later he was bolt upright in the bed telling me we were going to the hospital.
I still didn’t want it to be real but reluctantly made the call and the midwife asked me to come in to get checked over.
But what to do about Grace?
I was sure it was a false alarm, how could we get someone out of their bed in the middle of the night?
We hummed and debated about what to do until we called the one person we always ring when we have a medical emergency – the wonderful, irreplaceable Elizabeth! (everyone should have a Libby!!)
Weighing on my mind through all of this was the state of my legs.
There I was, bent over double in the kitchen, panting through the pain, telling my husband I couldn’t go to the hospital because my legs were too hairy!
Funny now, not so funny at the time!
Anyway, Ethan’s early arrival caught the hospital by surprise as much as me.
There were no neonatal beds available, so a few hours later I was loaded into an ambulance to be taken back over the Glenshane Pass to Altnagelvin Hospital.
Again, jokes about calling the baby Ponderosa were made – only it didn’t seem quite as funny this time!
Let me tell you, contractions in the back of a speeding ambulance are not fun, neither is the thought of giving birth on the side of the road with only a midwife and two paramedics to get you through it.
I needn’t have worried as Ethan wasn’t born until 10.32 that night – weighing a very healthy 6lbs 2oz for a baby that was five weeks early.
We thought this was great but apparently his bigger size meant his little organs, not quite fully developed, had to work that bit harder, so he was transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit.
So, I spent my first night as a mum-of-two in a ward alone with my baby downstairs, alone in an incubator.
Fast forward two years and I’ve just experienced that same gut-wrenching feeling of leaving my baby to fend for himself as he spends his first morning at playschool.
Of course, he’s been going to a childminder for over a year but that’s different.
Now there is a structure he’s never known before, a room full of children his age and he will be expected to share the toys and sit through story time, he will have to eat the snack put in front of him and not pick and choose from his lunch box the way he does at the childminder.
I watched him through the window after sneaking out the door and saw him spin around for me and my stomach turned over, tears rising up in my eyes, I couldn’t look anymore.
I’m writing this in a coffee shop a few minutes away, just in case he can’t cope without me.
But it isn’t looking likely – my phone has just beeped with a picture of him playing away happily.
And that’s what it’s like to be a mum.
I’ve been through it all already with Grace and here we are, almost six years down the line, and this morning she went to school in her summer uniform for the first time – another milestone ticked off.
I look at pictures of her when she was at playschool and she has grown up so much, especially since September.
And when I looked at Ethan this morning, insisting on wearing his little satchel as he walked into playschool, it struck me so much that my baby isn’t really a baby anymore.
Sometimes during those long sleepless nights, when it feels like your eyes might fall out of your head, and those days when you can’t even go to the toilet alone, you would give anything just for a minute of peace.
But when the time comes to let them go, to let them find their own way in this big bad world, you realise just how quickly those early days are gone.
And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I’m missing them already.