James was born in Vilnius in Lithuania, many miles from Cheltenham. When my husband first told me,
we were moving to Lithuania I had to look it up on a map. However, we soon adjusted to life there and
thought it would be a great place to have a baby. We were lucky enough to have health insurance which
meant I could give birth in a private medical centre. At my pregnancy appointments my husband used
to joke it was like going to a spa, well it may have looked that way, but I certainly didn’t feel like I was at
a spa. After having James by c section, I was in a room with a four poster bed (for my husband), while I was
in a hospital bed pushed up against the wall. There was also a TV, WIFI, en suite and meals cooked for
us both. I stayed there for four nights, and certainly wasn’t in any rush to go home.
We were posted to Lithuania for three years with my husband’s job, so knew we would be leaving when
James was four months old. Cheltenham is my home town; I was looking forward to moving back and
thought it would be a great place to bring up James. I was familiar with everything, and people spoke
English. I no longer had to worry about being understood. I already had friends there and was excited
about the prospect of making new mum friends. I would be able to create happy memories for James,
in the same places that I have happy memories.
Moving home was hard work. James was still a baby and this dream of making memories in places I had
memories wasn’t quite ready to take off. I used to spend my days walking around the streets of
Cheltenham trying to get him to fall asleep. It wasn’t quite the same as my old walks around Vilnius in
the snow, along the river or in a park looking at picturesque buildings. My walks were now around
residential streets, not an UNESCO world heritage site.
I know people say you should enjoy each stage with your baby because before you know it they will be
grown up. Well, I really wanted James to be able to walk. It would mean we would be able to start
making the memories that I wanted to make with him; the memories I had when I was little. He
eventually started walking at fourteen months. I would see his friends running around and I wanted to do that
with James, but this walking was going to take some practice before he was confident enough to let go
of my hand.
By the spring James’ walking had really come along. We could confidently leave the pushchair in the car
and know that he would be able to walk around, and I wouldn’t be carrying him the whole time. This
summer we have really enjoyed what Cheltenham and the surrounding area has to offer. We are members of The National Trust and Historic Houses so take full advantage of visiting nearby places. Initially I wasn’t sure whether James would be too young to enjoy places belonging to The National Trust
or Historic Houses, but he is loving running around anywhere with a nice garden. This makes him quite
easy to entertain outside. Chasing mummy is one of his favourite things to do.
We also like to enjoy Cheltenham’s lovely parks. James loves the trampolines in Pitville Park, watching
the ducks (or whack whacks as he calls them) in Hatherley Park, and running in the woods at Benhall
Park. These are all parks I have played in myself as a child, and now I love that James also plays in them.
I’ve made this sound lovely, but I am frequently dealing with a screaming toddler when I remove him
from the swings, which wasn’t part of the idyllic memories I had envisaged. Crickley Hill is another
favourite, although James sees it as a place he can frequently try and put stones in his mouth.
I often wonder what life would be like with James if we had spent longer in Vilnius. How would I have
kept him entertained in a country where not everyone speaks English? There was an international
playgroup we would have attended, we had friends with children of similar ages so play dates wouldn’t
have been a problem, and there are lovely parks. Despite this I think it would have been harder. In
Cheltenham there are an abundance of wonderful toddler groups, which we wouldn’t have had in
Vilnius. These toddler groups help keep me sane. They let me make new mum friends and give me
other adults to talk to, even if sometimes it is only a few words whilst chasing after James. Not only are
they great for me, but they keep James entertained and he gets to interact with other children.
We won’t be staying in Cheltenham forever (as much as I would like to) but will eventually be moving on
to somewhere new. There we will create more memories, but I am so glad we have spent time in
Cheltenham, so James can share the places I enjoyed when I was younger.
A Guest Blog from Leila Cartledge
Leila is a stay at home first time mum to James, born in October 2016 in Vilnius,
Lithuania. After spending 5 years living abroad, in Norway and Lithuania with her husband
job, she is now back in her hometown of Cheltenham, attending toddler groups with James,
battling to get him to try new foods and dealing with swing tantrums at local parks. You can follow her blog at One Fussy Eater and follow her on Instagram or Facebook.