This is Joe aged 5 standing at the entrance of the Rose Garden leading into the main garden of Erddig Hall.
Awake at 5am, Harry had just joined us in bed so I lay there for an hour thinking about "things". I looked at Harry sleeping in the middle of us and was in awe of how perfect he is. His pale skin with a scattering of freckles, his little nose and mouth just like mine and how soft his skin is.
I am so lucky to be a mum. We tried for years and tests revealed that I have/had policystic ovary syndrome. It was a relief to know that there was a reason for our lack of children but it was still a harrowing time. I remember month after month of building up my hopes then having them dashed. The tears, the grief....
My first pregnancy ended when the baby was 9 weeks. I had only just found out that I was pregnant and I immediately began to miscarry. The doctor at the hospital left me traumatised and it took me six months to even admit that I had been pregnant and I had miscarried.
I found out I was pregnant with Joe when I was about to give up on the idea of children. As soon as I discovered that I was pregnant, I had a threat of miscarriage again. I took myself to the Catholic church in Wrexham and I sat there and prayed and prayed. My prayers were answered and in October 1998 my little sunshine boy was born! Exactly a year to when the first baby was due. I always think that the first baby was Joe trying to jump the queue and get born a year early!
Every night when I watch my children sleep, I leave their rooms with tears in my eyes and as I walk downstairs, I thank God for my children because I am so lucky.
My children haven't been easy. "no child is" I hear you say but mine had problems in their development. They both have had/ have Speech, Language and Communication difficulties. Joe used to have fits of frustration because nobody apart from me could understand him until he was about five. He had speech therapy from the age of 2 1/2 but this lack of development has left him with a language problem which is only now being addressed. I can't rule out autism although his tests indicate that he is not.... He does have autistic tendancies but with time and training on my part, he copes with these very well. Until he was 9 years old he could not eat mixed up food so it was a major achievement for him to eat pizza. He has sensory issues relating to taste, hearing and feeling. This means that he finds it hard to filter out noise, the taste of food is more intense for him and clothes are a problem...... At one point in his life, he was eating so little that he was physically sick. I over came this by introducing a "marble" reward system: he got a marble for each "good" piece of food he ate, an extra one for trying a food but none for any "bad" foods such as biscuits etc. We overcame this period but it was a desperate time for me because all any mum wants to do is nourish their child.
He was also obsessive. His major fear was germs and dirt. He would become obsessed with a mark of dirt the size of a pin prick on his clothes and then he would be distressed because the clothes would have to be washed and that meant change which he found it hard to cope with. It has taken me years and years to de-sensitize him and now his compulsions are managable in that they don't affect his or our lives anymore.
Imagine; the children went pond dipping in school. All of the parents were warned to take their children home straight away because they all got wet...... all .... apart from Joe. This was his fear of dirt and germs affecting his life, that doesn't happen any more.
Harry never slept from day 1. I went for 3 years without sleep and was in a permanent state of exhaustion. He was riddled with pain as he suffered severe colic and couldn't lie flat. I noticed straight away that he had speech problems and from the age of 18 months embarked on a battle to get him the help he needed.
I used to take Sunday school classes and did this with a doctor. It was by chance at the school BBQ that I got into converation with this person and he revealed that he was a paediatrician and specialised in the Autistic spectrum. He had known Harry from day one and he carried out an autism screening. As soon as this diagnosis was given, people sat up and listened and I actually got him the school help he so desperately needed which is a classroom support worker for him specifically in school.
For years I had to drag Harry to school, every day I would be called into school to be told what a naughty boy he was, he became a scape goat at school and still is but we are coping now because of the extra help. It took us years to get him to do "good talking". It broke my heart when he told me he couldn't do work because "I havent got a big enough brain"
Mother hood has not been easy for me. However, I truly believe with all of my heart that my children were given to me because God knew that I could cope and I could bring them up to over come their difficulties. I am glad I was given this opportunity because it has grown me as a person. I am less judgemental, I do not take anything for granted, I am more understanding and I am just down right grateful for what I have got.
I had a period of mourning in my life, mourning for the babies and toddlers I didn't have. However, I have accepted this now and I would not change anything for the world.
My boys are my boys, warts and all. It is harder to parent them because I have to work twice as hard on the things that "normal" children learn automatically but that just forges our bond and makes my children more special. I am in constant awe of them, even when they are naughty. Yes Harry did tip 2 litres of water on his brothers bed because he was annoyed at him, he did squirt anti chew spray all over his brothers hamsters cage including the hamster because he thought he was helping, he does write on the walls and then blame the dog..... hard work but I wouldnt have it any other way.
For those who have not had the blessing of children for one reason or another, I am not gloating. My blessings are fragile and may never have happened so I am not smug I just count my blessings each and every day.
My children have helped me deal with breast cancer and the associated side effects. Without them I would not have coped as well as I have. They love me whether I am bald or not, they care for me as I have cared for them. I am the luckiest person in the world!