Hello…it’s me

It has been a while since I have written a blog post. A large part of that is due to my little bean napping less, but also around the same time life stepped up a notch, I returned to work 3 days a week and with adjusting to having a family/work life balance and having a somewhat demanding toddler on my hands I just haven’t prioritised writing. Also, if I’m really honest, I started to really enjoy being a Mum. Apparently I’m more drawn to write when I’m annoyed/frustrated/distressed! As my little one got older, we have grown to understand each other better, I feel more confident in the decisions I make on her behalf because she is now very good at letting me know if I’m wrong!

I want to return to writing though, as my journey seems to be moving away from focussing on how I can make my baby happy and a little more toward how I can find myself again, the woman who existed before pregnancy, child birth, breastfeeding, endless nights of pacing and unconditional love.

I’m enjoying feeling like me again. I remember in the early months of Boo’s life a friend telling me about the ‘newborn fog’ and how she thought each month that she had left it when another month would go by and she would look back and think “nope, I was still in that fog”. I feel like I have been in the fog for the whole year after having Boo. By no means am I unhappy with this, she was my entire focus and my energy was spent on making her happy, and I was so lucky to have the luxury to do this. Towards the end of her first year though I felt ready to find myself again.

In the months to come I am going to reflect on ways in which I have managed to reclaim myself and to explore and trial new ways to carve out time for me, to be just me. I am sure I will still write about parenthood joys and woes, but the focus of the blog is going to change, maybe…

Breastfeeding Just Gets Better

Thanks for hopping on over from Baby Foote, here is my contribution for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt Day 1, ‘The Start of My Journey’. Sponsors today include Boobie Milk with a £50 voucher, Cherub Chews who are offering a breastfeeding necklace and Loveyush who are offering a breastfeeding scarf for our Grand Prize winner. Over £700 worth of goodies are up for grabs entries via the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

Breastfeeding Just Gets Better

Before I had my Baby last October I knew I was going to breastfeed. My Mum had done it, my sisters all breastfed, I just knew it was how I was going to feed my baby. I took heed of advice given “get lots of box-sets in, you’ll be stuck feeding for hours on end”. I had my nipple cream ready to go and had attended a local breastfeeding group so I knew where to go and who to speak to if I was struggling. I felt fully prepared for what was to come.

Fortunately for me when my baby arrived she was also happy to breastfeed without much issue. Her latch was good, she knew what she was doing, I was lubing the nips frequently, husband had mastered cutting up my meals and feeding them to me, so it all seemed relatively easy. That was until she got colic.

At just over two weeks old something changed in my baby. At almost every feed, after about 10 minutes she would start to crease up and windmill her little arms and legs as if in pain. She would then scream and scream sometimes for hours at a time. It was heartbreaking, distressing and wearing, for both of us. At six weeks old she got her first cold and with that came her first nursing strike. Around this time (I think linked to her cold) she would only feed while lying on her left side, so I had to learn the rugby hold, I don’t think I ever really mastered that one though! After a couple of days she returned to breastfeeding but now, to make matters worse, she became almost angry and highly distressed (expressed by yet more intense screaming) if I ever offered her a feed and she didn’t want it, which was a lot! I became anxious and temporarily obsessed about encouraging her to feed. Techniques trialled to get her to feed included lying down, standing up, feeding while walking, feeding while she slept, bottles, husband giving bottles, at that point I would have fed her upside down on a trapeze if she would take my milk! I felt completely and utterly rejected by my own baby, that paired with the constant screaming meant that I just hated breastfeeding, and at times my baby too.

I continued to breastfeed, in part because my baby refused the bottle, but I also couldn’t handle the fuss of sterilising bottles and offering milk that seemed to go to waste. I found the support of my own Mum crucial for surviving the difficult times, her experience meant that she was able to offer me the best advice I was ever given which was simply,  “have faith in the Baby”. She encouraged me to trust that my Baby would feed when she was hungry and to relax more when she declined feeds. Teaching myself to relax and have faith in my baby’s ability to monitor her own intake of food has been one of the most beneficial changes I have made as a parent.

I first noticed a change in our relationship to breastfeeding when my baby was about 10 weeks, she paused one day in the middle of the feed and looked at my face in such a way it suggested she was thinking “wow, have you been attached to this boob the whole time?!”, then she gave me the biggest grin, it was a beautiful moment. The 10 minute feeds reduced to 7 minutes (I never did get to put my feet up and enjoy box sets) and with a little more time the colic went away. My baby continued to berate me for daring to offer feeds when she wasn’t hungry until she was about 5 months old.

I have found that as the months have passed the experience of breastfeeding has become increasingly enjoyable for us both. When Baby learned to sit up independantly she could sit upright in my lap to feed which she much preferred. As she has come to understand language I can ask her if she wants milk and she can let me know if she does or not before I shove my gargantuan boob in her face. When she comes off from a feed I ask “have you finished?” and she has the ability to decide herself if she wants to latch back on or not. I no longer feel anxious that she will have a melt down in public if I offer her a feed. We have so many more tender moments when we breastfeed now, as she runs her fingers through my hair and touches my nose. I think we both just generally feel more relaxed, and feeding IS easy now, so convenient and enjoyable.

At almost 10 months, I am so glad that I continued to breastfeed, through the colic, the screaming and the three nursing strikes. It’s not always perfect, I’d prefer not to have to get up to feed twice a night and I must have exposed my nipples to hundreds of people by now as she pops on and off for feeds in the day. But you know what, I really don’t mind, it won’t last forever but my memories of this journey will.

Following on from my journey, please do hop over to #PositiveAboutBF to see how her journey began and be in with more chances to enter the grand prize draw. Remember you need to earn 50 points to be eligible, full details can be found on the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Site.

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Going out? The buggers know!!

Due to not living close to family my husband I have had limited ‘us time’ since the arrival of our bundle of joy, well that and general exhaustion! I’m not usually one for going out loads, I enjoy the comforts of my own home, make up free and wearing pyjamas comfortable clothes day in and day out, but as our beasty approached 7 months I felt the desire to actually leave the house, just the two of us, sans baby.

The perfect opportunity arose with an invitation to a wedding reception.  It was in my husband’s home town so we had willing Grandparents to babysit too.  Sorted.  A new dress was purchased for the occasion and we packed absolutely everything to ensure things went smoothly, cuddly bunny, dummy, blankets, bottles, black out blind. It was a simple plan, I would do hair and make up late afternoon (much time was required for this due to lack of practice) we do the usual bedtime routine and get the munchkin into bed by 7pm leaving enough time to put our clothes on and go. Brilliant. Easy.

Except it wasn’t.  Our bambina decided that arrival to the in-laws was the most perfect time to get sick! Not just a little bit snotty sick, oh no, this was fever, nose snot so thick it could be mistaken for treacle, complete loss of ability to sleep, nursing strike, proper full-blown poorly sick. Therefore before we even started our evening out I was sleep deprived, covered in baby gloop and now anxious about going. No amount of make-up was going to hide the deep bags under my eyes although I discovered snot can work to your advantage when trying to style hair, who knew?! Needless to say, our evening out that night was brief and for me at least, sober. Boo!

It’s OK I thought, she’s got that out the way now, time to try again, so I planned a date night with the bestie in Bristol.  This time the Husband could stay at home and make sure that a settled night was had by all.  Once again though, my little monkey decided the previous night was the best time to pull an all-nighter! Bleary eyed I made it out, I had a lovely time but by 11pm I was ready for my bed with a belly full of fine Italian food and wine. Yummers. I patted myself on the back for being sensible about not getting too drunk.  The child however (who had in fact slept peacefully for her Father while I was out) clearly felt that I deserved a late one, just like the old days, and decided to wake for a lengthy period in the early hours.

I took to Facebook for a good old whinge (like you do), only to discover that my friend’s child had done a very similar thing.  She was due to go out for a nice evening with her husband, but before they left her son had fallen and created a rather fetching hole in his head. Dinner was off the cards.  It seems that I am not alone in having my well-earned evenings out sabotaged by my mini-me!  They seem intent to either prevent you going out at all or at least pull off some kind of outrageous stunt that ensures you feel utterly horrid and guilty the whole time you’re out.  I have learned that this is a well acknowledged (yet to be named) phenomenon amongst parents alike.

How about ‘Sababytage’? That could work… “Oh man I was going to join you for drinks last night but I was sababytaged, sorry”.

SABABYTAGE

Noun:

 Any plan spoiled for any reason by your own juvenile offspring

The question is how do the buggers know we are going out and why are they so determined to sababytage any chance of fun we may have?!  I do NOT have the answer to this, but if you do please let me know, or better still, tell me how I can leave the house for a night out undecteted by the beasty…I need some Gin!!

The Parenting Experiment

Before I entered the world of parenthood I was blissfully unaware of the stark truths that lay behind the parenting door.  I believed (as parents want you to) that parents know what they are doing.  Perhaps they have a strong passion or inclination toward a particular form of parenting, but generally (I believed) natural instinct kicks in and we follow those to produce a happy well-rounded little person.  So confident was I about this, that when my Husband asked me when I was 5 months pregnant “after we have the baby, what’s the plan?”, I laughed in his face.  What a ridiculous question I thought!  Isn’t it obvious?!  We simply raise said baby…  Yes, that is the plan.

What I’ve learned thus far (almost 8 months in), is that ‘plans’ and ‘children’ do not mix.  The reality of this hit me first during labour.  In the weeks leading up to my daughter’s birth I was advised to create a ‘birthing plan’.  I carefully took my time over this, trying not to be too specific so that I wouldn’t be shocked when those ‘plans’ didn’t quite happen.  Well, I may as well have used that plan to mop up my waters, it would have been more useful.  The only person that looked at that plan was my Husband for about 30 seconds before it became apparent that this ‘plan’ wasn’t ever going to materialise.  Goodbye low lighting, goodbye classical music, hello about 20 odd people up my bloody chuff!  I’m only glad I didn’t laminate the thing, so it could mock my pre-birth naivety.

Upon bringing my little bundle of tiny fresh baby home I realised that I didn’t have a bloody clue what I was doing.  So focussed was I on pushing her out that I hadn’t really considered ‘what next’.  The natural instinct wasn’t quite at its strongest following labour, childbirth and a whole 11 hours post birth of wide awake and feeding baby.  What became really apparent to me and my Husband at this point was that we were basically making it up as we went along.  How often should she feed? Does she need a bath? Is she supposed to be able to lift her head like that?!  Why the hell is she pooping black stuff???  We didn’t know, we were too tired to read about it, and all knowledge we had previously had slipped away in a sleep deprived oblivion.  And so it began, the parenting experiment!

An Experiment in Action
An Experiment in Action

The experimentation is an ongoing joy, and covers pretty much all babying areas:-

  • Crying – Yeah, babies do this a lot!  All you can do is try out various different things in the hope that one of them stops said baby from crying.  Clean nappy, check. Not too hot/cold, check. Full up, check.  Being cuddled, check.  That’s the basic checks done, let me tell you this, sometimes those things can all be accounted for and your baby will still cry.  Sorry.
  • Sleep – Things that may guide your baby to sleep may include some,all or none of the following; feeding, rocking, pacing, singing, putting them down, picking them up, going out in the car/sling/pushchair, allowing naps, preventing naps, music, white noise, silence.  Through much desperate experimentation we discovered Lady Gaga (see previous post), and after she hit 4 months we learned that she actually would nap, but only if we put her down.  Phew.
  • Feeding – Do you breastfeed?  Can you breastfeed?  Can baby?  Is formula the best way for you? Or combination feeding?  Would a formula feed make your baby sleep longer at night (for us not a chance in hell)?  Would a dream feed bring you a more peaceful night? How much, how often, who best to do it…?  More recently we’ve had the joys of weaning too, though this is more openly a big experiment it has still caused stress in other ways and prompted previous rants!

The more I talk to other parents about this the more I realise that it is all just one big experiment.  None of us know what the frig we’re doing!  NO ONE EVER HAS!  Parental knowledge is a ruse, an illusion, a hoax!  Sure you can read a book, seek advice, but even the application of these to your own child, in your own setting is one massive experiment, and all too often a failed one.  That’s why there are so many books out there and so much unsolicited advice!

So here I am, still at the beginning of my parenting journey and the experiments have only just began.  I have decided to just embrace this venture, perhaps if I ever have another I will have some kind of clue what the hell is happening (unlikely).  I shall willingly accept that just giving something a go to ‘see what happens’ is OK, it’s more than OK, it’s what we’re all bloody doing anyway.

Feeding and Weaning My Baby – A Rant

I’m going to have a mini* rant, and I apologise in advance because it will probably annoy people but I’ve got to get it off my chest.
I feel a bit sad that I don’t feel I can express my pride for breastfeeding without it being perceived as some kind of attack on those who formula feed. I have breastfed my baby for over 7 months now and it has been really frickin hard work at times, but I’ve managed to work through that and I am pleased that I have and that I have managed to meet my baby’s needs with just my body. Please know that my pride in succeeding in this is not a judgment on other people who have not been able to do this.

I feel pressure from some family and friends to stop breastfeeding now. I’m often asked when I’m going to stop (I haven’t planned any of this so I don’t know), and I can tell there is a suggestion in that question, that it should be soon. That if I keep breastfeeding past 6 months that it’s a bit gross, I’m being a hippy, my baby will get too attached. I don’t feel like I hear the question “how long are you going to formula feed” to other mums?  I have also felt pressure on how I should be introducing food. I have felt the stares in my Mummy group as I fed her a purée, with comments such as “she’s probably wondering why you’re feeding her toothpaste”. It was said in jest, but I could tell everyone was horrified that I wasn’t giving her bits of cucumber and rice cake.

Why oh why is our society so passionate and judgemental about how we feed our babies in general?! Why can a Mum not follow her instincts, or do what she has to do due to limited other options, without others smugly commenting?! I honestly don’t care how you feed your baby, as long as you are both happy with it. Why can’t people just be happy to let me and my decisions pass without a judgmental comment?

So…without having to explain my decision or reasoning I tell you this. I breastfeed my 7 month old and I am proud that I have achieved this! I will breastfeed until I so feel that I should stop or my baby decides to stop. I introduced food to my baby in the form of purée initially. I then gave her some finger foods for breakfast when I felt she was ready.  She now eats a mixture of purée and finger foods at almost every meal.  She has water with every meal too.

Dinner Time
Wow, I feel better for that. Perhaps this could be a thread that you just unashamedly share how you feed/dress/carry your baby.

*mini rant is now giant. Sorry again

A little more detail

I decided to start writing this blog on a whim one Thursday night. I enjoy reading articles and blogs and thought I would try my hand. The problem is I have no idea where to start. I have an idea, but not a clue on how to make it interesting or useful for other people.

The idea is to find effective ways to make the more monotonous components in life a little more pleasant. How can I minimise the time I spend keeping the house together so I can spend more time with my family? What things have we used that have changed our lives for the better? What things can I do to just improve my general sense of well-being? And how on earth do I judge that?!  Most of all I hope to try some new things and have some fun doing it.

I’m thinking perhaps I can break the blog down into categories:-

  • Material items – what objects do we use that make life a little bit better, what was not worth investing in?
  • Actions – what things do I do personally or we as a family do that make us feel happier?
  • Hacks – what tips and tricks have we learned that simplify annoying tasks

I will try and share my honest opinions and give balanced reviews. Obviously not everyone will agree with me, and that’s OK. I would definitely be interested to hear what others think, what advice they have to share, perhaps I can try some of them out.  I imagine that over time the blog will evolve and it’s true purpose will become clear to me, until then, please have a peruse and let me know what you think.

The Beginning

As a 32-year-old new mother to a (mostly) lovely 7 month old daughter, a wife, a nurse and an owner of 4 cats I have decided to take a moment of reflection on my life.

What I looked like last summer through the hazy eyes of Instagram.
What I looked like last summer through the hazy eyes of Instagram.

I have lived a pretty nice life, and as you can see above it has culminated in some really lovely things. I have been struck however, particularly since having a baby, by how there is a big expectation to have and do it all, and do it well! Work full-time, mother full-time, wife full-time, be free, be sexy, be natural, have fun, be careful, be thrifty, be thoughtful, be kind, do the best, be the best.  I’m not entirely sure where this pressure comes from, a general source of ‘others’, the media, from myself?

I am often shocked and surprised by the amount of debate that surrounds every single parenting decision that is made. It seems people and ‘the media’ all have an opinion about everything. The way you feed your baby, the amount your baby sleeps, how you dress your baby, the way you wean your baby, how you transport your baby, where you take your baby…and the list goes on. Overwhelmingly what I notice is the strong sense of guilt that arrives whatever you so choose to do. It seems you are damned if you do and your damned if you don’t.  Well sod that!

I have decided that what I need (and maybe what we need?) is to treat myself better, more kindly. I hope to find a way to achieve everything i so desire.  I think perhaps starting with a little step back to take a moment to decide what I actually want to do, and how best I can do it would be wise.  That is where this blog is going to come in.  I’m going to take my time to assess the daily details, what helps me to achieve my goals, what helps me through the days, what makes me feel good, what makes me feel better. This will include how I feel, how I look, how I manage my daily tasks at home, at work and out and about. Hopefully I can learn which stuff to ditch and which to keep, use and develop. I shall graciously share my discoveries here, and maybe, if we’re lucky, it may help you too.