The giant helium balloon is dancing in the window, just like every other year on Austin and Rory’s birthday. Its been there since the party on Saturday (it is now Thursday) and every time I look at it, i’m dazed.
How the ‘eck have we made it this far. THREE whole years! When I think back 3 years to this day, staring at my babies born 14 weeks early, pint-pot sized, weighing less than a bag of sugar at almost 2 lbs and absolutely covered with wires and monitors, so fragile, not even breathing for themselves, hanging onto those initial and very difficult conversations before I was able to meet them, knowing they might not ever make it home…..to now….ok, we still aren’t past the graduation, we are still carrying NICU scars and have LOTS more mountains to climb, but as another Mum and blog reader once said, and it has stuck with me…..’no matter how big the mountain, You pack your Sh*t up and you climb it…..and she is right. That’s what we have done every single time over the past 3 years and we have surpassed every expectation so far.
In those 3 years, I’ve given up work, Ash has retrained. Our family unit has completely changed. Our lifestyle, our friendship circles, our entire outlook on life. Our family home too.
Although our day to day is difficult medically, Austin and Rory are the most enjoyable bundles of fun. They are complete characters. We are now at a point, 3 years in, where we can enjoy them and the other stuff isn’t taking over and controlling our day to day. The usual ‘toddler’ struggles aren’t really on our radar, this is the easiest we have known. It will never be as difficult as those first days, as tough as those first years. The struggle taught us patience and understanding and this helps with the toddler stuff. At the minute we are just enjoying a whole other level of parenthood, an enjoyable part where nothing in the world matters but them. We laugh, we cry, we watch them in awe, we say ‘look at him’ and take a billion pictures for the smallest of things. We take nothing for granted….And that’s why we took A&R out of nursery and Ash took a day off to celebrate their actual birthday with some quality time!
So what did we do?
Our day started with Austin and Rory opening their ridiculously HUGE pile of presents. Thank you so much to everyone who bought cards and gifts, it is very much appreciated. We knew the playroom would be bursting based on the fact that Ash’s truck was rammed with gifts from their party on Saturday, but the gifts just kept coming. We are so lucky to be surrounded by so many friends and family who like to spoil A&R on their birthday even if that does mean that my pre-parenthood ideal of ‘having a few toys they really play with at a time’ and my children ‘not being spoilt’ went out of the window the day they were born.
87 cards alone! 😳 with two more from last year that never made it to us!🤣
We had a lazy morning playing with all of our toys. Rory’s face when he saw his scooter was absolutely priceless;
There were other toys which were a hit too, including a really thoughtful card from one of Rory’s nurses. When Austin saw it he shouted her name and kissed the card lots.🥰
Then we went to Centertainment to Frankie & Bennys for a birthday lunch. I invited a very special person to share in our quality family time because, well, she has been an absolute crutch this year and helped us to grow and take on this next step as a family, towards Austin and Rory living a normal life, where they are able to go to nursery, make friends, gain independence and grow in those areas where they have struggled because of their health and where I haven’t been able to fix it; socially! She knows who she is!
We had a lovely lunch, and then we went to Hollywood Bowl and spent £7 in 15 minutes and gained enough tickets for 2 tiny bags of Harribo. Some would call that a FAIL, however, A&R would disagree and to be honest, the Harribo came in handy when we were at the Cinema for Austin and Rory’s first ever Cinema experience watching Peppa Pig: Festival of Fun. This was the next stop in our birthday adventure. They loved it. Ash at & I dropped off at some point during the movie, and the highlights were possibly Rory getting his head stuck between the seats – TWICE and then not being big enough to keep the seat down and getting stuck and losing a shoe.
We jumped in pretend muddy puddles all the way back to the car. They’d had a cracking day, they smiled so much. It was a really enjoyable day with lots of firsts, lots of things which we feared would be a No, No, such as the dark of the cinema room, the volume of the film and the ability to sit still for so long. We managed it all. Managed been the optimum word! It is all about how we manage A&R, and that is the only way we achieve so much with them. Everything is hard work but everything is so so so worth it!
When we got home, Grandad visited again, and Nannie and Uncle Craig.
It was such a fab day, just like their party day.
When we got home from the party, I sat on the sofa in the playroom and I sobbed. Ash’s realisation that THAT day, their party day, was probably the most ‘normal’ day of their life so far, because they were able to run around like everyone else, they played with their actual friends. They have built relationships with other children and they are accepted, liked, in fact i’d go as far as to say they are popular. They are just like every other child at their party, aside from Rory’s tracheostomy and all that comes with it!
We do go a bit mad and have a big party every year, and friends have tried to talk me out of it a few times, but I don’t think I will EVER be able to see another year pass without a massive celebration because even now, another year is not a given, especially for Rory. His airway is fragile, without his tube he wouldn’t be here, and it is important to remember that. We get asked how we know so many people, and to be honest, we just do and it was emotional to see Austin and Rory playing with children from each step of their journey.
They were playing with children who like them, were born prematurely and shared a room with us in both Sheffield and Barnsley NICU…
They were playing with their playgroup friends.
They were playing with friends and family who have been there from the very beginning.
And they were playing with the friends they have made at pre-school.
We are so lucky that they are surrounded by so many fantastic kids who without a doubt have had an influence on them too as they learn from their peers.
As the boys are developing their own personality, they like different things and so for their party I themed it as a Milkshake Mash-up, to accommodate both of their favourite programmes / characters from the Channel 5 milkshake mornings which they watch every single day whilst eating their breakfast.
We had decorations, toys, activities and cakes and cupcakes themed around Paw Patrol, Peppa, Thomas Tank Engine, Ben & Holly and Fireman Sam.
Peppa and Chase even made a visit.
They had an awesome awesome time! Here are some pics…
I look forward to seeing A&R enjoy all of their birthday presents. The giant pirate ship in the garden, their first scooters, football nets and rugby post, their own greenhouse, new jigsaws, books, arts and craft stuff and proper cool Duplo. They have so many cool new clothes and PJs too, birthday pennies to buy more cool stuff and some vouchers for playing at Clever Tots and Smyths toy store too. They are such lucky lucky lucky boys, I will be showing them this when they are able to understand, to remind them just how fortunate they are.
THREE years ago I wouldn’t dare have dreamt about this moment, writing about their birthday party and our completely normal day out. I know that whatever is thrown at us, our family unit will handle it and I thank everyone who is part of our circle, our wider network, our followers and blog readers because no matter how small, you all played a part in this too.
🎈 Happy Birthday Austin and Rory! 🎈