When William was 6 months old we went for the first time to what is officially called 'Toddler Group'. In our house it is called 'Deaf playgroup'. Because that's what it is. Playgroup for deaf kids, kids with hearing aids, and cochlear implants. Kids who communicate through sign language.
It was hard. I didn't want to be there, I didn't want a deaf kid. I didn't want to learn sign language, I didn't want my kid to have to. I didn't want to hear what the other Mums had to say. I wasn't interested in how it was going to get better, how successful their kids were, how 'normal' life could, in fact, be.
But we persevered. And it did get better. And William did achieve and develop. And life does, more often than not, have a semblance of normality about it. There was one Mum in particular that helped me a lot. That very first day, she was the only one who talked to me. She asked how I felt, how my partner felt, my parents, his parents. She discussed tests with me, told me her story. She made me feel welcome and comfortable and most importantly, she made me realise that life goes on. That this wasn't the end.
And deaf playgroup became a wonderful thing. It was first thing on a Monday morning, it got us up and out the house. It was a 30 minute walk so it got me exercising and in the fresh air. William adored being there and socialising with the other children. For a long time Monday afternoons were the only day he would nap for 2 hours. It was part of our routine and we loved it.
And then the Government had to make cuts. The NHS had to make cuts. Playgroup is every other week now, somewhere new. On paper it's just a different children's centre in a different area, fortnightly instead of weekly.
To us, it is now two buses or a 20 minute walk and then a bus to get there. It takes 50 minutes.
The room it is in is upstairs. I have to leave my pushchair outside, even in the rain. I have to carry our bags and William up 2 flights of stairs.
The room is much smaller. Today there were 6 children, all William's age and it was crowded.
There are leaflets at a reachable level so the kids can pull them off and get in trouble for it.
There is no kitchen to make a cup of tea, just a shelf for the juice that again the kids can reach and again get in trouble for spilling.
It's on every other Tuesday, so if you miss one week, it's a whole month between playgroups.
These all might sounds silly or small. But they make it harder. And combined they make it hardly worth my while. I am pregnant and tired, if I am going to travel 50 minutes somewhere and the same home, it has to be worth it. And today just made me feel like it no longer is. Which is a real shame because it used to be the highlight of our week. And I really would have liked to have given the support that Mum gave me to another Mum with a newly diagnosed deaf baby.
Have budget cuts affected you and your family? How does it make you feel?