Ain’t no Hood like motherhood. (19 months postpartum).

I’ve not written in a while. It’s hard to find the time when you have a tiny human (quite literally) snapping and wailing at your heels. Sonny is a big ball of energy – shrieking, laughing, crying, torturing the long-suffering cat. His only words ‘maaaama’ and ‘ooooh’. I’m dizzy in love with him though. I think I could gaze for hours at his perfect crystal blue eyes, his outrageous dark lashes, his chubby wrists, even his squidged up nose when he’s completely overwhelmed by his emotions.

After a fairly peaceful period of relative normality, January hit us hard. Sonny picked up a nasty tummy bug, but took it like a (little) man and fairly nonchalantly vommed as he toddled around grinning. We were equally bemused and horrified at this unexpected turn of events. Sonny, meanwhile, wasn’t that bothered by his bodily functions. While keeping an avid eye on his temperature, we put it down to a common childhood illness.

Unfortunately, the next morning, my poor husband announced he wasn’t feeling the best. This usually means my beloved needs to lie down for a few hours. This time though, it was more serious. It seemed the tummy bug had jumped ship from Sonny to Andrew. He took to bed and moaned a lot while making regular trips to the bathroom. I sighed, thinking another bad case of man illness. I got on with the day’s tasks but I started to feel a bit ropey around 7pm that evening. I swayed up the stairs and declared I was about to die.

Yes, I was also succumbing to whatever it was that had taken over the Gordon household. I climbed into our bed, feeling rubbish, riding the waves of nausea. Times like this, you need a few bathrooms. Still, even though we were feeling horrible, I felt grateful for the fact that Sonny was OK. That he was clambering on us and smacking us on the face as we were horizontal, wishing we had a magical fairy godmother to look after our darling child until we were both better.

Parenthood is the craziest, most magical thing that has ever happened to me. I’m incredibly grateful to have a son who brings me so much joy. He has completely changed my life. Becoming a parent awakens something in you. For me, I want to step up, be a great parent, the type that he will want to become in the future. Becoming a mum has awakened something else inside me, the need to emerge from the person I’ve hidden behind for too long, the weak, scared, insecure girl. I feel the best I’ve felt in a long, long time. I care so much less about other people’s opinions and it’s very liberating. I’m ready to live and it’s about time.

Things I wish I’d done before turning 40…

I’ve just over a week to go before I enter the next decade of my life. I’m excited, overwhelmed, trepidatious but ultimately happy with my lot. The past two years of my life have taught me a lot about myself, what I’m willing to accept and what I’m not. I have a very low tolerance for drama, I’m wholly committed to becoming the best version of myself and also committed to my incredible family, my refuge, my rock.

My world.

Regrets, I’ve got a few, but they’ve all led me to where I am at this moment. I’ve always believed that ‘everything is happening perfectly’. I wish I knew what I know now in my early 30’s. I’ve been irresponsible, foolish with my heart, reckless with money but now, (you’d hope), I feel grown-up, properly grown-up. I don’t have the stamina of my youth, I go to bed early, suffer awful hangovers, and have various physical ailments but some days I feel giddy with excitement, I want to get dressed up and hit the town, I want to buy that over-priced dress, I want to laugh and giggle ’til my belly hurts.

I might be almost 40 but in many ways, I feel my life is just beginning. I’ve already got what I wanted, a family. But, there are still things I want to achieve for me. I finally freed myself of the shackles of an office job and I’m self-employed as a writer and social media manager. I love and need flexibility in my career. Family is everything and so it goes that everything revolves around family.

However, if I could have a word with my younger self, this is what I’d do…

Learned to drive.

I’ve probably taken well over 100 lessons over the years but have never quite mastered it. I’ve started and stopped, for a variety of reasons – money, confidence, and frustration. I know driving will give me the independence I crave but I fear I’m not ‘cut out’ to drive. It’s so important, especially when you’re a mum. Thankfully my hubby can drive but I’d like the freedom of being able to jump into a car and get to where I want to go without having to depend on a lift or public transport. Maybe 2020 will be my year to get in the driving seat…

Travelled more.

I’m lucky to have seen a little of the world with my husband but there’s much more I want to see. Yes, financial constraints and work commitments have played their part but travelling is so good for the soul. I love blue skies, feeling the sun on my skin, sinking my toes into the sand, immersing myself into a new culture. As an independent and adventurous soul, seeing more of the world is on my bucket list.

Row the boat… in Venice.

Loved myself more.

It’s taken a while. I wouldn’t say I’m quite there but I’m getting there. I’m a decent person, I’m not perfect. I’m lucky to have some incredible women in my life, if you’re reading, you know who you are. I’ve doubted myself, agonised over things I’ve done or said. But, I know I’m good. I’m kind, loyal and a good listener. I wish I could go back in time and hug the teenager, the 20-something, tell her I was good enough. My mum has always told me I was special but I felt unworthy of such an adjective. I feel worthy now.

Almost 40…

Started a family earlier.

I didn’t get pregnant until I was 38. But truth be told, I never felt that maternal urge. My close friends getting pregnant awakened a yearning in me, a yearning that was unfamiliar but strong. Thankfully, I got pregnant easily and delivered a perfect little boy on June 18, 2018. Sonny has changed my life beyond recognition. I get it now, the sacrifice, the exhaustion, the paralysing fear that comes with being a mum. It’s also the most life-affirming experience of my life. Sonny brings me so much joy, more than I thought I’d ever experience. I’m so grateful to him for allowing me to experience the greatest love of all. It’s humbling and so wonderful. I’d love a brother or sister, as crazy as that would be. I don’t think I’m done just yet.

Worked for myself earlier.

I’ve been a slave to a wage for so long. It’s the most soul-destroying thing to be in a job where you feel powerless. I’ve fantasised about becoming self-employed, about getting paid to do something I loved. It’s so important, you spend so much of your life working. It’s so pointless to do something every day that you have no passion for, it’s a waste of a life. Yes, I know there are bills, there are dependents, but it will change your life if you look forward to doing your job.

Been better with money.

I think I have the shopping gene if there is such a thing. I’ve always been a lover of beautiful things. I’ve never really felt that guilt that you should feel after you’ve spent an extortionate amount on a handbag or dress. Yes, it’s important to look and feel good. My husband who is a financial advisor is horrified at what I spend my money on (sometimes I am too), but I’m impulsive and I do get a thrill from buying beautiful things. Yes, I need to reign in my spending as we’re saving for a new home. But maybe next year will be my year to be sensible. Hmmm.

Striding into the next decade!

Overall, it’s been a great decade. I met my husband, had a baby and started a new career. I’m looking forward to my 40’s. It still feels a bit surreal but I’ll get used to it. On December 21, I’ll turn 40 and celebrate with my family and friends. I can’t wait.

Thank you for reading and I hope you’ll join me as I becoming a 40-something!

Lots of love, Davina xx

Be kind to yourself, mamma

This post is sponsored by Natracare.

Being a mum comes with pressure. You are responsible for nurturing and shaping another human being’s life. It’s a huge responsibility and one that comes with endless sacrifice. There’s no medal for motherhood. It’s the hardest job you’ll ever do. 

Picture perfect

It doesn’t help that in this digital age, we are constantly being bombarded with saccharine images of motherhood being ‘perfect’. On Instagram, we see cleverly composed, perfectly lit images of beautiful nurseries and supposedly ‘candid’ shots of a mother with perfect makeup and hair and a spotless, beaming baby. It’s enough to make you feel entirely inadequate. As an Instagram user, I have on occasion been guilty of some of the aforementioned ‘fake news’. No, my dear son isn’t always pink-cheeked with shiny hair. A lot of the time he’s covered in food, his hair unkempt, his face contorted with frustration. Most of the time, my hair is scraped back, my pale face make-up free, dark circles under my eyes, my sweater stained from Sonny wiping his streaming nose. However, as a brand new bleary-eyed mum, I felt compelled to take endless snaps of my tiny baby. I even bought Sonny cute clothes, specifically for Instagram posts. I’d sweat buckets trying to get him in the right pose. It was far, far too much. 

No, my dear son isn’t always pink-cheeked with shiny hair.

Not another pic, mum!

I didn’t even realise that I was putting myself under ridiculous pressure until a good friend suggested I take a break from social media. I was anxious, depleted, exhausted, feeling like I had to show the world that I was coping – when I really wasn’t. I felt guilty for feeling overwhelmed when so many other mums seemed to have it together. I felt I shouldn’t complain, ‘you’ve only one’, some would say, ‘what if you had two or three?’. I’d take unhelpful anecdotal advice with a pinch of salt – ‘I know my baby best’, I’d say inwardly. 

Being a mum is no easy task

The early days of being a new mum were incredibly testing. I’d never even changed a nappy before Sonny was born. There is so much to learn and you question absolutely everything. I catastrophized constantly, scared myself to death with horror stories I’d read online. I was afraid to sleep, needing the constant reassurance of Sonny’s soft, even breathing. I was in a state of high alert, drinking far too much coffee, drinking wine to take the edge off, eating rubbish. It was only a matter of time before I crashed. This was my reality. Now, I can look back on the first year of Sonny’s life and acknowledge it was really difficult (it still is) but I got through it.

The love of my life.

Motherhood has utterly changed me as a person and I’m so grateful that I got pregnant easily, at 38. Sonny was planned but I’d no clue as to what to expect. I’d enjoyed my 30’s, I was completely cushioned from the wrecking ball through your life which comes with having a child. I don’t even recognise the woman I was before Sonny. Now, I’m very much living in the present. I cherish those moments where Sonny buries his head in my neck as I’m climbing the stairs to put him to bed. I live for his adorable laugh, his toothy grin. I feel like I wouldn’t even make sense without him now. 

I don’t even recognise the woman I was before Sonny.

Changing paths

Becoming a parent has changed my career trajectory too. I was made redundant shortly after returning to work from maternity leave. I now work for The Mummy MOT, a service that provides a specialist postnatal examination for mums after natural and C-section deliveries. It’s so important for me to do work that is fulfilling having spent most of my career in sedentary jobs, working to pay the bills and have a few nights out. Sometimes I feel like I wasted a lot of years, but I know that every second of my life has led to where I am right now and I’m in a great place.

Self-care is key

I had a Mummy MOT, a specialist postnatal examination about a year after Sonny was born. It was empowering and it made me realise just how amazing my body is. I’m also really lucky to work with some amazing brands that I believe in. As a parent with responsibility, I feel accountable for what I consume and what products I use. I’m ashamed when I think of all the non-biodegradable baby wipes I’ve used because they’re cheap or just convenient. I’ve recently started using Natracare baby wipes which are made with organic cotton. Not only do they smell lovely – they’re saturated with organic chamomile, apricot, and sweet almond oil – they’re so much gentler on Sonny’s bottom. I also love their cleansing make-up remover wipes. Although I’m much better than I used to be at taking off my make-up, sometimes I can’t be bothered with lotion, so these wipes are a super quick way of cleaning my skin before collapsing into bed. I love Natracare’s ethos of providing women with a viable, eco-friendly alternative to pads, panty liners, and wipes. Using this brand, I feel a bit less guilty, and that’s a big plus for me. 

Natracare Baby Wipes are a guilt-free choice.

As a parent with responsibility, I feel accountable for what I consume and what products I use.

A conversation with a lovely neighbour led me to start meditating and deciding on what I want from life. I’m unapologetically ambitious and driven. I know what I want and I’m undeterred by what some people may think. Meditation has really helped me, and while I let it slide sometimes, I know that spending just 20 minutes in the morning, being mindful and expressing gratitude, sets me up for the day. I’m also working out three times a week, another thing to make me feel good about myself. 

Find beauty in the small things.

Taking a break from social media was the best thing I’ve ever done, and it also had a domino effect, encouraging me to focus inward and be sensitive to my own needs. You have got to look after yourself if you are going to look after someone else. It’s that simple. 

You’re doing amazing, mamma

I’m approaching my 40th birthday, excited for the future. In some ways, I feel like my life is just beginning. I’m doing great a job of being a mum – and so are you. 

For more information:

Visit: https://www.natracare.com/ and https://themummymot.com/


I get by with a little help from my mum friends

Having a baby changes everything, including your most important relationships. Such a seismic event will make many of those relationships stronger, and sometimes, weaker. Yes, becoming a mum can be a really lonely, isolating time but if you have a supportive, loving tribe around you, you will flourish. 

Being a mother is so overwhelming. Other mums understand the daily struggle. You don’t have to put on a front. Your mum friends won’t judge you if you haven’t managed to shower that day, brush your hair, or your house is upside down. Your mum friends are the first people you’ll turn to with feverish questions about any strange spots on your baby’s skin, the non-stop wailing, weird coloured poop. It’s a massive comfort to know that your best friends have your back when you’re feeling crap. 

This September, I’ve been championing Mummy Social, an app that supports and encourages mums to be brave and get social with other local mums. Sadly, maternal loneliness takes a lot of us by surprise and Mummy Social wants all mums to know they are not alone. It can do you and your little one(s) – or not so little one(s) the world of good to get outside into the daylight and meet other mums who are on the motherhood journey too. Coffee is the holy grail when you’re a sleep-deprived mum. 

I’m very lucky to have close friends who are also amazing mums. It does feel like you’re on this incredible, crazy journey together. I recently had a cinema date with a close mummy friend, minus the cinema. We ended up chatting for hours over wine and it was brilliant fun. It’s so important to feel that connection with another human being and sharing motherhood makes it all the more special. It’s quite surreal to watch your mini-me playing with your good friend’s mini-me.

2019-09-17 09.08.31 1.jpg

Mummy time!

It might be the end of September but it is definitely not the end of getting social! Mums supporting mums make the journey of motherhood a happier, healthier, easier and less lonely one. Maternal loneliness is real, it is all too common and we need to keep talking about it and do our bit to help.

As author Douglas Pagels says: “A friend is one of the nicest things you can have and one of the nicest things you can be.” Amen to that.

Download the Mummy Social app and if it’s something you’d like to get involved with, drop them a DM!

Visit mummysocial.com

 

Happy birthday mumofsonny!

I’m on the red-eye shift as I cradle my nine-week-old son with one arm as he sleepily gulps his warm milk, pausing at times to make appreciative sighs before hungrily going back for more. With his ravenous appetite sated (for at least two hours I hope), he melts back into my now aching arm, drifting off to a satisfying slumber. I gaze in a trance-like state at his pink, perfect face, happy that he’s content before realising that I need to burp him. I gently sit my squirming baby on my lap with his back as straight as he’ll allow and proceed to rub and pat until I hear the glorious sound of a burp. He grimaces and squeals, deeply irritated at not being able to allowed to remain asleep. But he’s totally reliant on me to help him with his bodily functions until he’s old enough to burp and fart for himself.

I wrote this almost a year to the day ago. It seems crazy, starting a blog when your baby is just nine-weeks-old and yet, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I spent most of my twenties and thirties aimless, wanting more but not doing more. It’s the definition of madness to keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. Life gets in the way, you think, you get a job that pays the bills but it’s soul-destroying. You’re terrified of change. I’ve always wanted to start a blog and a long time ago I did. I published my first blog, excited to put my voice out there. I’ve always loved writing and I knew I was good at it. I got a horrible message straight away. I have my suspicions who it was but it was enough to knock me off course. Why would anyone want to read about what I had to say? I had no self- belief, my self-esteem had been battered by jobs, by men. I kept getting the same results.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. It’s beautifully simple. Life is simple, it is us that makes it complicated. Losing my job earlier this year has been the best thing to ever happen me. Once I got over the initial terror of not having a monthly income, I quite liked having days to myself – especially as a first-time mum – and no, they’re not really days to yourself. Getting to grips with being a new parent is tough. Your life is flipped upside down. You are exhausted, thrilled, frustrated, hopeless, happy, sad. It’s utterly life-changing and you know your life has changed for the better. Becoming a mum has changed me, from my core. I don’t sweat the small stuff, I hate drama and negativity. I spend my days enjoying life, enjoying Sonny’s many expressions, his funny sounds, holding him tight, kissing his soft pink cheek (that smells so good). Yes, he is annoying too. My living room constantly looks like I’ve been ransacked. Sonny delights in emptying drawers, cupboards, the bins. He screams and cries and it’s so, so hard. But there are also moments when you think your heart will burst.

Blogging for me is therapy. It’s a chance to sit down when Sonny is in bed and write about how I’m feeling. It has also opened up my world so much. I’ve been so lucky to meet some incredible, energetic and positive people. I’ve met blogger, author of Mumboss and beautiful mamma of two boys, Vicki Psarias aka Honest Mum. I’ve worked with some amazing baby brands such as Baby & More, Babease, Beaux Baby Boutique, and Kate & Moon. I got to experience the new Center Parcs in Longford with my family. I’ve blogged about first aid, sleep training and lately, meditation and self-care. So many opportunities are still coming my way and it’s all thanks to my blog.

Becoming a mum is undoubtedly the best thing to ever happen me. It’s so fulfilling, shaping a new life. It’s so joyful, seeing your son collapse in giggles because of you. If you are still reading, I am so happy for your company and I hope you will continue to follow my journey as my baby becomes a little boy. Maybe I can even inspire you to start writing or to think outside the box that you have created. Life is short, why would you want to spend it pleasing people, or working for the cash machine? I’m so grateful and lucky that I’m where I’m at. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. No, life is not perfect, I am not perfect – I’m human after all. But, it’s pretty close.

My beautiful boy dressed by Beaux Baby Boutique

I’m gonna shake it off – my experience of a mindful self-compassion workshop

If you had three minutes to talk about how you were going to look after yourself for the next few weeks, what would you say? Would you run over the three minutes or would you run out of things to say after 30 seconds – as I did? When it comes to showing kindness, we rarely offer it to ourselves. We should talk to ourselves like a best friend, because, you are your best friend.

There are three steps to self-compassion. The first is to acknowledge your suffering – it’s what unites us the most. The second is to know that you are not alone, it’s known as our ‘common humanity’. There are 8 billion people in the world and just 15 emotions – an incredible statistic, isn’t it? The third is to give kindness. It is, as enthusiastic teacher Bridgeen Rea-Kaya of Immeasurable Minds, Belfast says, “always the appropriate response”.

Self-compassion is the first step toward compassion for others.

Dalai Lama

As well as a range of yoga classes for all ages and levels, Namaste Yoga Centre offers mindfulness meditation and workshops like the one I attended. I wasn’t dressed for yoga, I had been stuffing my face at a bloggers buffet beforehand so was bursting out of my skinny jeans. I slipped off my ankle boots, picked up a yoga mat and sat cross-legged on the floor. This wasn’t the most comfortable position, and we were invited to get chairs by Bridgeen Rea-Kaya, who is the perfect advertisement for mindfulness. She glows and has a warm, bright smile that puts you at instant ease. To begin, everyone had to introduce themselves and give a reason for why they were attending. Many of the answers were similar to mine, with some quite new to meditation and others wanting to deepen their practice.

Kindness is always the appropriate response.

Bridgeen Rea-Kaya

Next, we lay on our mats for a body scan. We were invited to use pillows or blankets – which I made a beeline for. The point of a body scan is for you to focus on different parts of your body and develop a mindful awareness of your bodily sensations and thus relieve tension. She told us to watch out for sensations such as tingling and tightness. I know I carry all of my tension around my neck and shoulders. A body scan trains you to ‘just be’ with pleasant and unpleasant sensations. I didn’t feel anything too out of the ordinary but it was really nice to lie back, listen to a soothing voice and not be disturbed by a screeching one-year-old who is having a face-off with the cat.

In between mindful breathing and a few activities, Bridgeen read poems, one by Mary Oliver called Grasshopper was particularly special. I love poetry and studied English at university. I wrote a poem when I was 15 which won an award. I’ve always been a thinker, not the academic type, but someone consumed by thoughts, largely negative. That is changing.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

The best thing for tension is moving about. You know the Taylor Swift song ‘Shake it Off’, well, it’s the perfect example of a mindfulness song. So, we all started, quite literally, shaking it off, although sadly not to the pop princess. Usually, I’d need a few glasses of wine before considering dancing, so I went for it, secretly hoping not to bump into anyone in the class ever again. The next thing I knew, we were running around the room giving each other high fives. It was a bit awkward and strange, I’ll admit, but it certainly got us all giggling, albeit nervous ones.

The final exercise was picking a partner and sitting on the floor shoulder to shoulder. We were instructed to tell the stranger next to us things we were going to do to look after ourselves for the next month. Three minutes is a long time. I rattled on about stuff like going for walks, meditating, having lunch with friends, doing yoga (a white lie), but I ran out of things to say. My female partner sat and listened, as she was instructed to. I felt my cheeks burn, I didn’t know what else to say. Still, she remained silent which unnerved me all the more. Eventually, sensing my awkwardness, she said that she wanted to give me as much time as possible to just talk about how I was going to look after myself. How little time we spend thinking about ourselves. When it was her turn, she spoke at ease about all the wonderful things she was going to do. My job was just to listen but I found myself biting my tongue when I felt compelled to interject with “oh, that sounds nice”, or “I’d love to do that”. The exercise taught me about the magic of listening, of making a person feel important, and of being, truly in the moment.

To be happy, we must practice gratitude. The brain has a built-in negativity bias that causes us to focus on bad things. This may have helped our ancestors avoid being eaten by a mammoth, but in this modern age, it isn’t helpful. We need to rewire our brains to focus on the positive. Yes, life is busy and stressful but, with mindful practice, you can change it. Of course you will feel fed up from time to time but the important thing is to respond with kindness. I’d absolutely recommend this workshop, it’s so important to love yourself – and shake it off.

For more information: https://www.namasteyogacentre.co.uk/ and https://www.immeasurableminds.co.uk/

Babe in the woods – a magical family time at Center Parcs Ireland

Words are my currency so it’s not too often I’m stuck for them. However, I’m struggling to find the right adjectives to describe our three days spent at the newly opened Center Parcs in Longford Forest. We’ve made memories for life and it’s so special to share time as a family in such a magical place. Set in over 400 acres of willowy trees and lush landscapes, Center Parcs offers a wonderful woodland retreat. It has to be seen to be believed. As a permatired mum of a tenacious one-year-old, I’ve been daydreaming about our trip for ages. The danger with that, of course is that nothing can ever possibly measure up to your imagination but in this case, it did. Center Parcs is about a three-hour drive from Belfast, so makes the perfect stay-cay for families, couples and friends.

We live here now…
A room with a view.

I was like a giddy kid at Christmas when I saw the Center Parcs sign on the way into the resort. We picked up our wristbands that double as a lock for your accommodation and lockers – what a brilliant idea as I am terrible for misplacing key cards. One of the most exciting things about going away – for me at least – is where you are staying. I love opening the door, running my hand over the crisp white bed linen, admiring the gleaming surfaces of the bathroom and enjoying an invigorating power shower. I was not disappointed, the decor is muted with a relaxing forest scene as a feature wall. We stayed in an Executive Lodge which had ample space for a family of three. There were two bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, one with a bath and the other with a wet room. Our fluffy towels were beautifully rolled up on the bed which was a good size and passed the bounce test – that’s not just me, right? We had the most amazing view from our lovely, inviting lodge. There is nothing better than waking up to birdsong and forty shades of green. Sonny, who has taken a few tentative steps prefer crawling like a clockwork toy as his means of (rather effective) transport. He went about inspecting the lodge, stopping to vigorously tap various surfaces (it’s his thing), and he particularly enjoyed a luxurious bubble bath. The showers are amazing too and ladies, even the hairdryer works like a dream. There is even a vanity mirror with a shelf for makeup. I’d have been quite happy to spend the entire weekend in our lodge but I was also keen to experience the best of what Center Parcs had to offer and give Sonny the best time ever.

Life is a playground.

Everywhere in the resort is walking distance but you can hire bicycles with trailers for nippers so you can be where you want to be in a matter of minutes. Andrew and I had target archery booked so I could channel my inner Katniss Everdeen and Andrew, his inner Robin Hood. We dropped our little darling off in the amazing creche in the Sports Plaza. He immediately got distracted with a piano mat and didn’t even bother giving us a sideways glance as we wished him an emphatic goodbye. This was somewhat reassuring as we made our way to the Outdoor Activity Centre. I have never tried archery before but I fancied trying something new. We were given excellent instructions and it was time to try our hand at it. When you see archers in the movies, they make it look so effortless, it takes quite a lot of effort but it is very exhilarating when you release the arrow. I hit red on my first go, followed by the arrow missing the target completely. I soon got the hang of it and even managed to hit gold – not quite bullseye but I felt very accomplished. Meanwhile, my hubby, who has a competitive streak, did much better than me and even got a certificate for third place, which is going to take pride of place in his study. There are so many things to do, the difficulty is choosing what. You can try Laser Combat, Aerial Tree Trekking, and Stand-Up Paddle Board Tuition. For little ones, there is a Pirate and Princess Adventure, a Wizard Academy and a Chocolate Chef’s Academy – and so much more.

Can anyone hear Bryan Adams?

The weather was balmy too. I almost didn’t pack any sunscreen as the forecast was for heavy rain. The sun shone for the majority of our stay and even if I forgot anything, it wouldn’t matter as there is a brilliant ParcMarket in the village where you can buy groceries, baby essentials and mummy essentials, like wine and chocolate. There are great restaurants to cater for every taste too. I absolutely love that there are Ella’s Kitchen feeding stations in them – with free grub for hungry little infants and toddlers. We dined at Bella Italia which has a delicious array of food including thin and crispy pizzas, lasagne and risotto. It was so tasty and the waiting staff were so friendly. There is a play area for kiddies so you can eat your meal in relative peace. I got all dressed up as I rarely get the chance to anymore. So, I felt pretty damn good. My lovely bubble was burst when I glanced up from my menu and saw another mum wearing exactly the same dress. We studiously avoided each other’s gaze, even though we kept running into each other for the rest of the weekend. Thankfully, we weren’t twinning in The Pancake House the next morning. The pancakes, by the way, were absolutely unreal.

Meet The New Yorker.
Yum.

It is so difficult to condense our experience into a blog but I can’t not gush about the Aqua Sana spa. It is quite simply the best spa I have ever been too. Andrew, not one to dole out praise too often said it was “amazing”. Aqua Sana is inspired by the natural world and offers 21 hot, cold, herbal and meditative experiences across four zones: the Nordic Forest, Hot Springs, Volcanic Forest, and Treetop Nesting. Oh yea, and there are outdoor hot tubs, rain forest showers and reflexology foot spas. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a smiling lady who offered us a shot of Prosecco or orange juice. You can probably guess which one I chose. We were given luxurious robes and towels and we padded into this paradise of unparalleled relaxation. We bathed in the outside infinity pool and then enjoyed the views of the forest from the hot tub. I’d recommend the waterbeds. You could easily spend an entire day here, or life.

To infinity and beyond.
Living my best life…

So, more fun stuff. The Subtropical Swimming Paradise is a jewel is Center Parc’s crown. It is Ireland’s largest water park and features an awesome family wave pool and rides for adrenaline junkies. I am a bit of a wuss when it comes to anything which could be deemed adventurous but recently, I’m developing an appetite for things I would not have previously considered. I knew I had to do something and wasn’t brave enough for the Tropical Cyclone – which Andrew tried and loved. I thought the Wild Water Rapids looked quite fun and something I could handle at a push. With Andrew on Sonny duty, I cautiously teetered over to the slide, the frothy waves waiting to engulf me. I ignored the ‘you can’t do this!’ voice, held my breath and pinched my nose, one down, I survived. About five to go. I saw the next slide. I can’t do it. An attendant saw my sorry plight. I really wanted to get out but I couldn’t. Meanwhile, youngsters a quarter of my age greeted me looking slightly bemused and threw themselves down the steep slide. I was half mortified, half terrified, looking like a stranded sea lion. The lovely attendant spoke to a lifeguard who told me I just had to go for it. I had to swallow my fears and swallow some water as it turns out. He offered to hold my hand, I reckoned that was way too pathetic, even for me. I went for it and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was even quite enjoyable. There’s a life lesson in there somewhere. Sonny, meanwhile, adored the water, splashing and kicking, so happy he made lots of high-pitched squeaks. Memories of that sound and his toothy grin will stay with me forever.

On Saturday night, we dined at Rajinda Pradesh. Sonny was pretty zonked from the day’s activities so while he slept in his buggy, our taste buds were treated to mouthwatering Asian cuisine. Some menu highlights are satay-style chicken wings and Malaysian beef rendang. The service was impeccable and the food was superb. We rounded off the night at Huck’s American Bar and Grill with a few gins for me and Guinness for him. Sunday morning dawned and it was time to pack up, or rather, chuck things into bags. I (over)cooked a fry-up in the spotless kitchen, feeling a bit bad for using the gleaming oven. We had a little time before home so we took a rowing boat out on the lake. Sonny was not a fan of his life-jacket, even though he looked utterly adorable in it. Despite Andrew’s protestations that he could row, we hugged the banks for about half the time we were allotted. Thankfully, we were towed out into the middle of the lake and soon we were gliding, Andrew doing all the work while I tried my best to keep Master Sonny calm. Back on dry land, Sonny had a well-earned nap while we had frothy lattes at The Coffee House overlooking the lake. It was nice to reflect on our incredible time, in between batting away wasps. Meanwhile, Sonny enjoyed eating jam directly from the jar. Before hitting the road, we bought Sonny a little memento of his visit – a dragon soft toy from Just Kids.

Happiness is…
Having a barrel of fun.

As we made our way back to our car, my heart hurt a little. I really didn’t want to leave this magical place. I didn’t want to return to reality. But, all good things must come to an end and we made our way back to Belfast. We made some amazing memories which are safely banked. There is nothing better than seeing your little one smile and he did that a lot at Center Parcs. As my hubby said, “We’ll be back.” I will certainly hold him to that. I highly recommend a trip to Center Parcs whether you are a family, couple or bunch of mates. It’s special – you’ll never want to leave.

Row, row the boat.