2/5 This much I know.

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So, parenting.

I don’t know, I’m sure some people manage it, but in my experience it is impossible to have a baby, and then not let said baby take well and truly over your life. Pregnancy, birth, feeding and raising tiny humans has utterly dominated my every waking moment for the past 4 years and has made up the fabric of my day, every day. Which has been both wonderful and totally bonkers, inspiring and, well, intense.

Right now though, I feel like some of the fog is lifting. I can sustain my attention for more than 60 seconds on topics other than cloth nappies and the best strategy for getting your toddler into their car seat without giving yourself an aneurysm. I am beginning to prioritise myself more, and my need to get fit and use my brain in different ways, rather than always feeling at the bottom of the pecking order. There is, oh my God imagine, space in my life for more than just babies. A dog! Why will no one let me get a dog?

Part of the reason for saying farewell to this blog is that the impetus to write incessantly about parenting has waned. But while I am still here, not quite clear of those all encompassing toddler years, I thought I would write down the most important stuff that I have learned. The pearls that I want to pass on, to other people still very much beneath the mist, trying to figure it out, with only 4 hours sleep and a strong coffee to their name.

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The very most important thing I know: We all fuck up. Like, you can read all of the Janet Lansbury you like, rehearse all the right things to say in the midst of an epic toddler tantrum, be the most zen and empathetic earth mother to your three year old who has very specific cup preferences, but at some point, you will lose your shit. Not in a ‘I’m strategically raising my voice to get you to listen’ way, but in a ‘Dude, I am exhausted, my patience is in the gutter, you are pushing me to my goddamn limits and I am just yelling because I am full blown ANGRY with this TOTAL LACK OF COOPERATION YOU ARE TAKING THE PISS MY GOD!’. This is not a thing that any parent is planning on, and shit, when it happens on the way into Sainsburys with a thousand judgey old people staring at you, know that it will be one of the low moments of your life. But guys, we are human, and while I LOVE positive parenting sites like Janet’s, I think we need to be honest that sometimes a situation will just push a button and we will yell and it will be ugly. It’s okay, our children will not be emotionally broken as a result of this, and it absolutely does not undo all the other good stuff that we do. On behalf of mothers everywhere, I am officially cutting us some slack.

Parenting though, it’s a judgey game. Actually I think it begins way before we are even parents and we are in a restaurant and there is a family on the table next to us. Ipads are on, pasta is being thrown and the parents are just benignly drinking wine and pretending not to notice the breadsticks that are being crushed and then liberally sprinkled about the floor. And we sit there and we think, ‘That will never be me, I will never be that parent, I will do so much better than that’. It carries on when we have had our baby, and you see an eighteen month old in the pushchair chowing down on a packet of Quavers and you act all aghast, because suspiciously cheese flavoured reconstituted corn shall NEVER pass the lips of YOUR preshus angel. And then again when you’ve got a toddler and you see those big kids dominating the bouncy castle, bumping yours right out of the way and onto their faces, while their parents drink beer and literally could not give less of a shit, and you vow to never let your children be such obnoxious little brats that leap all over babies without a care in the world. We all judge, of course we do. Judgement is useful! When you are thrust into the oblivion, I think it is good to look around at what others are doing and syphon off the things that you like, and want to emulate, and the paths that you swear you’ll never go down. This is all a healthy way to work out the parent we want to be. But also, shit happens. The afore mentioned shit in the last paragraph for example. And it helps precisely no one if you are there, looking on, at parents having a hard time or wilfully ignoring their children, because they’ve had ENOUGH that day, and passing judgey judgement. I am trying my best to remember that, and to not be a dick.

So if we have ascertained that we are all going to have bad times, and that we will refrain from being too harsh on others who are having bad times, what about the rest? Repeat after me: there is no right way. I know amazing parents who put a ton of effort into their interactions with their children, set up wonderful Montessori style activities, and are mindful of everything they do. I also know amazing parents who work full time and drop their kids of at child care every day and let them watch a ton of TV in the evenings because they are all freaking tired. I have written a lot about the guilt that suddenly descends when you have kids and makes you feel like whatever you’re doing? Not good enough. NOT. GOOD. ENOUGH. But the conclusion that I have drawn is that if it is working out for you and you’re family? Probably good enough. I am definitely the geekiest parent on the block and if there is stuff in our family that is bothering me (my kid has started waking up in the night again, my kid hasn’t eaten any vegetables in a month, my kid has an all consuming obsession with sharks at the expense of any human interaction, let’s say, just as an example), then you can bet I will be up all night scouring the internet for ways to improve the situation. But I do try and separate out the stuff that bothers me, because it bothers me, and the stuff that is driven by what I think I should be doing, because a Mormon lady in New York is doing it.

A word on parenting blogs: There are some amazing women out there who write inspirationally and honestly about their time with children (shout outs to Renegade Mothering, Parenting Illustrated with Crappy Pictures and Recipe Rifle for keeping it so real). For the most part though, once a blog has paid sponsorship, they have to maintain their brand, and their brand is usually them, being a completely perfect parent. Of course they are dealing with the same crap as the rest of us, OF COURSE THEY ARE, but they are photographing and writing about fun trips to the pumpkin patch, or how they just weaved their own yurt out of felt. Which is cool, I love those blogs! I love felt yurts! But the phrase ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’, has never been so apt.

Here are some other things I know:

Never tell the mother of a new born to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’, ‘savour every moment’ or that is all ‘goes so fast’. It does go so fast but a day when you’re up at 5am and your partner is away and it’s raining and the internet has broken also lasts a thousand years, so that kind of makes up for it.

Instead, take the mother of a newborn food: cake, coffee and meals she can reheat. Literally the only gifts worth giving.

This too shall pass, this too shall pass, this too shall pass. They will stop doing that annoying thing that they do eventually. Sure, they’ll start doing some other annoying thing instead, but a change is as good as a rest right?

And seriously, if I was to pass on one piece of actual advice to the parent of small children it would be this: Ignore them sometimes. I am cultivating a style of parenting I like to call ‘conscious neglect’ (admittedly i might need to work on my branding), because honestly, it’s okay for kids to fend for themselves for a good chunk of the day. I think a lot about my Grandma, who raised three children in the North of England during the 1950s. She had a job and did all of the domestic chores without even a goddamn vacuum cleaner or washing machine, while her husband worked away a lot. Seriously, how was this even possible? Well she sure as shit wasn’t putting together colour match wheels and busy bags and making toast that looked like a little bear (although that bear toast? OMG). And yet she was still an amazing mother. So I think about her when I tell my kids that they have to entertain themselves for a while so I can cook, or get dinner ready or mess around on my iphone and feel thankful that I don’t have a mangle and that it’s no longer an expectation that I scrub my front steps every day. They’ll be okay on their own for a while, and it makes me appreciate the times when I sit down to do something nice with them all the more.

I’m sure I’m forgetting things. How to do a one handed nappy change on the parcel shelf of your car for a start, but that’s okay, you’ll figure it out. I need to go and do some other stuff: Plant some cabbages, swoon over yellow kitchen tiles, read a BOOK, Snap Chat a friend, secretly buy a dog. Stuff that still exists, waiting for you, when you emerge from the fog.

Mother’s Guilt

There is so much to feel guilty about as a mother. You’re not breast feeding? Bad mother. You breast feed your baby to sleep? Bad mother. You put your baby down to sleep and they cry? Bad mother.

When did this list of things your baby should be able to do become common place? And I’m not even talking about things that of course babies are expected to do. Things like eventually walking and eating solid foods and saying Mama while pointing in your general direction, although possibly at the dog, it’s hard to tell. No, I’m talking about these rules for motherhood about routine and independence and creating bad habits and rods for your backs.

ROCKING MY BABY TO SLEEP IS NOT A ROD FOR MY BACK! IT’S WHAT WOMEN HAVE DONE FOR GENERATIONS! THERE’S A LULLABY CALLED ROCKABY BABY FOR A REASON!

But there’s the guilt. And the unnerving sense that in other homes, mothers are just putting their perfect babes into the cot and the baby looks up adoringly at the mother and then, giving a little wave, simply falls into a blissful 2 hour slumber. This is better I think. This is better than feeding and rocking and putting on the hair dryer and hearing crying 45 minutes later. These mothers are better than me.

THESE MOTHERS ARE ALSO FICTICIOUS!

In times like this I read Food of Love by Kate Evans. It sanely and humorously reminds me that the ficiticious and judgemental mothers of my imagination do not matter. As long as a I feed my baby when he is hungry and get him to have a little bit of sleep when he’s tired and more importantly, if I cuddle him and kiss him and tell him that I love him and think about my parenting choices and don’t feed him strawberry milkshake or leave him in the middle of the road amidst a sea of broken glass and syringes. As long as I do all that, then I’m not a bad mother. I’m a bloody good mother actually.

Cloth nappies

Time to start on our cloth nappy journey. I will write more about this another day, but for now I’ve ordered one of these…
http://www.cleangreennappy.co.uk/fuzzibunz
…and if we like them I’ll get more and get started.

*edit: I should add that my choice of Fuzzi Bunz was made mainly due to Shawna at Style Berry blog, who posted this awesome guide…
http://styleberryblog.com/an-accidental-passion-cloth-diapering-for-the-modern-mom
Check them out!

Flash mob!

I have so many ideas for blog entries going around in my head at the moment and so many stories and experiences I want to record, but I thought I would start with breast feeding, especially in light of this story that appeared on a website for Mums in my area http://www.brightonmums.com/be-more-discreet-while-breastfeeding-baby-i-am-told/

In response to the negative comments about her public breast feeding, Claire organised a flash mob, an opportunity for women to meet and breast fed en masse in the town centre. My baby managed to sleep through the entire thing, but it was great to be there and to support every woman’s right to feed her baby in public.
My breast feeding journey began as a fairly bumpy one, (although nowhere near as bumpy as some), but this was something that i was determined to do and luckily for me I was able to. I think during your first pregnancy, you are so focused on the birth that you give very little thought to what comes beyond that. In particular I think there is very little information given to expectant Mums about what a challenge breast feeding can be. I was so naive! I could never understand why some women choose to formula feed, because to me breast feeding is cheap, convenient and great for your baby. And all those things are true, but you may also have to contend with your baby not latching on, cracked nipples, blocked ducts and the fact that no one but you can feed your baby, which at 4am, when you’re getting up for the 6th time that night, can take its toll. Plus the fact that the act of feeding is literally draining, and my God do those cluster feeds in the first few weeks leave you feeling exhausted.
I was lucky that my little mancub latched on almost immediately after me giving birth to him. The wonderful midwife placed him on my skin and he immediately started rooting around. I gently moved him towards my nipple and off he went. It felt incredibly strange, yet incredibly natural and I was just flooded with reliefe that he was able to do it, he was feeding from me.
As we continued to feed at home, I was thrilled with how simple it all was, but over those first few weeks I experienced my first breast feeding challenge. Despite slathering on the nipple cream, I had the most incredibly sore nipples and every time he latched I would be close to tears. Frustratingly, I was told time and time again that this could only be due to a poor latch and that if he latched on properly, it would be painless. So I tried in vain to cram as much of my boob as possible into his little mouth, but it was still agonising.
The final straw was a feed one afternoon that was just constantly painful. I kept taking him off and trying to get a better latch, but it was still hurting. It felt like my nipple was being rubbed on sand paper. The last time I took him off my nipple was bleeding and there was blood round his mouth. I burst into tears. Luckily my wonderful husband was there and went straight to the chemist to buy me some nipple shields and they were a god send. I used them for a week to allow my nipples to heal and I honestly don’t know if I could have continued to feed without them.
Once I was healed I phased out the shields, which was very simple, despite warnings of nipple confusion. And perhaps his latch had magically improved, or perhaps his mouth had just grown, but suddenly I could feed him and it didn’t hurt. I felt like I was doing it properly and no longer dreaded each feed.
It’s amazing that there is so little awareness that breast feeding is a skill. It is a skill that both mother and baby need to acquire and one that takes some time. Yet all the Mums I know that have struggled with various issues feel like failures because they can’t do it. When it’s going well, it is just so incredible to be able to feed your child and help them to grow. But if it doesn’t go well there’s a sense that you can’t do the one thing that you’re supposed to be doing at that time and that somehow, you’re less of a woman because of it.
I feel so lucky that I have been able to continue on my breast feeing journey. I have the utmost respect for women that persevere through far greater problems than my own and an extra hats off to women that exclusively pump, dedicating many hours a day strapped to a machine, just so their baby can benefit from all the goodness that their milk has to offer. Breast feeding is such a wonderful gift, but not necessarily one that is given easily, so below are my top tips to get you through those first few weeks.

Consult the la leche league peer support forums. Every conceivable question has already been asked there and there is literally an army of Mums waiting to answer you. It is so reassuring and such a wealth of information.
http://forums.llli.org/forumdisplay.php?111-Breastfeeding-Your-Newborn-(0-3-months)&s=f9319893e1540951051a55ff0ee51856

Talk to other Mums. For the first few weeks after giving birth, this was all my antenatal group talked about and again, I found so much reassurance from the fact that I wasn’t alone in experiencing pain in feeding. If you don’t have an antenatal group then there are often breast feeding peer support groups just for this purpose that your health visitor can recommend.

Read The Food of Love by Kate Evans. I read a heap of baby books and this is the only one I would recommend.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Food-Love-Formula-Successful-Breastfeeding/dp/0954930959/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1323980558&sr=1-1

Buy a breast feeding cushion. I resisted this, because I thought I needed to learn to feed without one. Now I wish I’d had one from the outset as they support your baby and more importantly, your arms. I can feed without one when I’m out and about, but I still use mine at night, when I’m tired. I got this one and it’s great…
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Widgey-Nursing-Pillow-Cow-Print/dp/B000NCAFOQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323979291&sr=8-1

Apply that Lansinoh. Apply it religously after every feed for at least the first month or until you feel that your baby has established a good latch. if that doesn’t work and you are still sore, then nipple shields can be a good short term fix. I used Avent, which are super thin and easy for the baby to feed from.

And finally, don’t feel pressured to continue. Take feeding one day at a time, as every day your baby gets breast milk is precious. But if you are struggling to the point that it is making your depressed and it has just become too much, then stop. There is nothing wrong with formula and for some Mums it is the best option.

Back to the beginning – part 1

I always intended to write my birth story, and I suppose through a series of e mails to various people I have, but I want to assemeble the whole thing in one place, before the post partum amnesia completely irradicates it from my memory altogether.
Some background: before getting pregnant I had a complete fear of giving birth. My Mum’s only experience of labour had been horrific and she had recounted the tale to me on many an occasion, which in hindsight was not a particularly useful thing to have done to someone who hoped to have children one day. I had no idea how I would cope and had no qualms about taking all of the drugs offer.
Then I got pregnant. And suddenly birth wasn’t some horrific, but distant event that might one day happen to me, it was an inevitable part of having my son, and immediately things didn’t seem so bad. I set about preparing myself as much as possible. I read positive birth stories on the Internet, did Tara Lee’s fantastic pregnancy yoga classes, read up on hypo birthing and other relaxation techniques and took an incredibly ante natal class, which equipped me with the tools I needed to have a natural, yes natural, drug free birth. I saw it as a challenge. Something that my body is designed to do, and something that I wanted to do properly.
I didn’t have a specific birth plan, aside from wanting my husband there and wanting to do whatever was best for our baby. I wanted to make use of yoga and breath work, to use a TENS machine for pain relief and I was open to using gas and air. That was pretty much my plan.
My bag was packed, I was ready to go and my due day came and went. I had a sweep, nothing. My waters broke as I walked along the beach, but still no labour. Finally, after many twinges, false starts and somethings that turned out to be nothings, after 9 months and 8 long days, as we drove home from my parents house at 5pm on Sunday evening, I had a contraction.

How a rest was won.

From the very beginning ‘routine’ has always been a bit of a dirty word in our house. I’m not sure why. I know that millions of happy healthy babies are raised on a good, solid routine and I’m a control freak at the best of times, so I assumed that that was they way that we would go. Then the mancub arrived and I just sort of changed. I instinctively wanted to feed on demand, never wanted to leave him to cry, and just felt that it would be best for all of us if we met his needs as they arose, rather than to fit in with a set schedule. Plus, when you’re feeding every hour in the night, if he then wants to sleep in til 9am, you’re gonna let him, right?
And that was great for the first few weeks. Yes, we were sleep deprived, but I would literally set myself up either in bed or on the sofa with my bottle of water, a book and some snacks and prepare to be there for the foreseeable future. As feeds spaced out a little, we were able to leave the house and I relished being able to go wherever we wanted at whatever time suited us. A feed, a nappy change and quick, let’s get out while we can!
And, waddya know, gradually, what we’ll call a ‘pattern’ to our day has slowly emerged of its own accord. Feeds have spread themselves out, naps are taken in the sling (usually out walking or while I have a coffee), and at about 6 pm we get him bathed, massaged and into a sleep suit.
However 2 key things have happened that have made all this much easier. The first is that we began to follow the ‘eat, awake, sleep’ cycle. I know this has been written about in several books, none of which I’ll pretend to have read, but friends have passed on this really simple, but super helpful tip. I was initially feeding and then letting him drop off, only for him to want to feed less than an hour later, or so I thought. Because crying means hungry right? Apparently not any more. After feeds I decided to make time for playing, chatting, singing and general wakefulness instead. After a while of this come the little cries. Not full blown ‘feed me vile woman’ cries, but less urgent squeaks, which I’ve learned to realise mean ‘I’m tired’. And now that’s when he gets popped into the sling and a couple of minutes later he’ll be flat out. This currently tends to go in 3 hour cycles and I usually aim to get him out of the sling by the end of a cycle ready to feed again. Or if I’m walking somewhere or busy doing something, I don’t. Super flexible.
The other revelation was being able to put him down in his crib in the evening. For 8 weeks he had sat up with us, dozed in his chair and finally gone to bed with us at around 10pm. Which was fine, we watched DVDs and gave him cuddles if he needed them and cluster fed (oh the joys) if he needed that too. But when I realised that he was asleep for most of this time, I thought it would be worth having a go at putting him to bed. Now, as a complete opponent of any form of controlled crying, I admit to being worried. I assumed he would cry and then I’d pick him up and take him downstairs and we’d be back to where we started. I therefore cannot recommend a gliding crib enough. It’s right by my bed, so after his evening feed he gets popped straight in (initially swaddled, now in a gro bag), gets rocked until I see the eye lids drooping and then I’m out, good to enjoy my evening. A rod for my back you say? Well if feeding and then rocking my baby for the foreseeable future to ensure that he sleeps well constitutes a rod, then I’ll take it thank you. Some nights he’s still been awake when I’ve left but I hope, that because we took our time before leaving him, and never left him to cry, that he feels safe and secure to fall asleep by himself.
So that’s sorted right? Hah, of course not, I’m sure there’s more fun and games at bedtime to come, especially when teething kicks in. But I’m glad we’ve found our way, and I tell you what, it’s nice to have a glass of wine in the evening again, while my baby boy is fast asleep upstairs.

Don’t make it hard now….

Hi, hello there. Like many new Mamas before me I have taken to the Internet to share my experiences of this crazy place they call the Motherhood. My little man is 2 months old today and we are loving our new adventure as a family We are all about the breast feeding, baby wearing, tummy tubbing and extra cuddling, not so much about the scheduling and alarm clock setting. I am just about feeling as if my body is ready to work properly again, so am on a mission to up the walking, swimming and yoga and maybe, just maybe, limit the cake eating to once a week. I mean, once a day – come on now, let’s be realistic! I am also enjoying my first few days of having evenings again, after we started putting the little one in his crib after his bath and feed. He seems happy to get some extra sleep and I’m embarking on a few crafty projects, beginning with a birdie mobile for his nursery (photos to follow). Hell, I’m a novice, I have a lot to learn, but I AM LOVING IT. So here begin the ramblings of a sleep deprived, but very happy Mama. Don’t make it hard now, it’s an Easyworld.