“He called me mum.” Jesse recalls; meeting her step son Taysen for the first time. It hadn’t crossed her mind that he would actually be calling her mum one day; her and her partner Trevor laughed it off awkwardly.
She had been seeing Trevor for five months when she found out she was pregnant. It came as a big surprise for both of them, and although they were in shock, they decided to move in together to raise both of their children.
At the time, Taysen was two and a half and seemed excited about the change, but Jesse found it hard to adjust. She was both pregnant and adapting to being a Mum to a toddler for the first time.
“It was so hard adjusting from having my own time; my own freedom and being able to do whatever I wanted, to taking on a two and a half year old.” Jesse explained. There was no easing into either roles, as she was thrown into the deep. She had never had to look after anyone other than herself, and all of a sudden, she had two dependants to care for.
Trevor often worked long hours, sometimes seven days a week, so it was up to Jesse to cook, clean, do childcare drop-offs, pickups and everything in between. Luckily, she had a lot of support from Trevor’s family. Her biggest challenge was, and still is, overcoming behavioural issues that come with all toddlers.
“Most of the time, we had good days but every so often we had a bad day and I would question if I could do it,” Jesse explained. She remembered calling Trevor, crying and asking his grandparents to take Taysen for the day because it was too much for her.
Just before her first daughter Addison was born, Taysen called her ‘mum’ again – the first time since their original meeting.
He is starting to understand Jesse isn’t his biological mum. “When I was pregnant, Taysen asked me if he came out of my tummy. We explained that he came from another lady’s tummy before he came to me and that simple explanation was enough for him at the time,” Jesse said.
They have decided to keep everything open and honest with Taysen as he continues grow and understand more.
Without the help and support of Trevor’s family, Jesse would have struggled a lot more than what she did.
Her advice to anyone in a similar situation is: accept all offers of help and don’t be afraid to ask for it either.
Jesse was faced with lots of challenges when her daughter Addison was born. Although she had experience in being a Mother from raising her step-son Taysen, she had never cared for a newborn baby before.
Taysen wanted her full attention and couldn’t cope sharing it with Addison.
“One night,” Jesse recalls, “He was lying in bed and calling out to me, crying like a baby because Addison was.”
This made things very difficult as Addison always seemed to be upset with something and cried most of time; she wouldn’t settle unless Jesse was holding her.
In fact, Jesse thought her baby hated her. She felt like she was doing everything wrong, unable to give either children what they needed.
Jesse knew something wasn’t right, so swallowing her pride, she sought help from the local doctor confirming that Addison was suffering from reflux.
Although it’s not uncommon for a baby to experience the uncomfortable symptoms of reflux, some cases are more severe than others. So with the guidance of the doctor, Jesse tried everything to help her daughter. From medications to introducing solid foods earlier, they did notice slight improvements, but nothing had yet completely fixed the problem.
Due to the discomfort of the reflux, Addison was micro napping around the clock and Jesse felt as though she was losing her mind because she couldn’t achieve much in her day without some time to herself. After seeking further advice from professionals, who recommended she and Addison stay at the Agnes ‘parent and infant unit’ in Traralgon for support, she accepted they needed more help and applied to join the waiting list.
When eventually a spot at the Agnes unit became available, Jesse felt both relieved and sceptical.
“We do ‘gentle parenting’ with our kids and I didn’t know what to expect,” she explained.
Jesse and Addison entered the Agnes unit and stayed for two weeks. The professionals there worked alongside her to meet her goals, allowing her to learn ways to settle Addison which were also in line with her gentle parenting style. Finally, Addison began to sleep for longer periods of time, and overall Jesse was thankful that their experience at the unit was supportive and achieved positive results.
When they returned home, Jesse adjusted Addison’s new routine from the Agnes unit to fit in with their lifestyle, which she still continues to put into practice today. With a much more settled baby, and therefore more time on her hands, Jesse was also able to give more of the attention that Taysen needed.
Jesse didn’t expect to struggle so much when Addison was born. It didn’t take long for her to realise she had to be honest with everyone around her, including herself.
She admits, “As proud as I am, I needed to accept help everywhere it was offered.”
Jesse decided to transition Addison from breast to bottle formula at six months old. On her first attempt, Addison’s cheek and chin turned red. Jesse questioned if the milk was too warm, but her partner Trevor knew it wasn’t right.
They raced to the hospital and discovered Addison had an allergic reaction to the formula. Addison was sweaty, hot, vomiting, and covered in a rash.
“I was overwhelmed and very protective of her,” Jesse recalls emotionally, “I felt terrible that I did that to her, but it couldn’t be helped. No one could have known she would react like that.”
Mum and daughter stayed overnight in hospital giving Addison different types of formula under medical supervision. Addison didn’t have any reactions to soy formula, but it was a big task for them to get her to drink it.
Jesse was feeling frustrated because Addison was refusing the bottle and needed nutrients, so, they stayed at the Agnes unit for the second time to assist in making the transition easier for everyone.
After a few months, numerous allergic reactions and hospital visits, Addison was finally at the top of the waiting list. She was nine months old when she had her allergy test and the results showed she was allergic to eggs, dairy and nuts.
Now, Jesse’s whole family is very cautious when it comes to giving Addison food.
“Most of the time, Addison’s brother Taysen, takes it upon himself to tell Addison if she can’t have something because it has milk or eggs in it.” Jesse said.
After overcoming these initial challenges as a family, Addison is doing well, and Taysen takes pride in his responsibilities as a big brother.
Her advice to all mums is: “if you think your child is having an allergic reaction, don’t wait to see if it gets worse. Seek medical attention straight away.”
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