Let’s Talk: Pregnancy and Infant Loss

This month has been Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month and social media has been flooded with people’s posts, stories, images and simple acknowledgements that they too have felt the pain that comes with pregnancy and infant loss. I have come to realise that pregnancy and infant loss is not as uncommon as you think. I’ve seen posts from friends or acquaintances that I would never have guessed had gone through their own loss. Silly really. It’s silly that, just because their Facebook or instagram posts reflect a happy, care free life, I would be surprised that they too had experienced loss. It made me realise that many of us present only our best lives through social media. I too am guilty for that. After all, why would you want to document your challenges, the dark days and the low times? They aren’t the days you want Facebook to remind you of this time next year and the years to follow. Many times I have written out a post that is a real reflection of the shitty time I am going through but then have hesitated just for a moment too long, hovering over the ‘post’ button. I don’t want people to think I am a whinge-bag. I don’t want people to think I am having a moan, or complaining. After all, there are people in the worse situations. I shouldn’t complain. Delete. Delete. Delete.

So, an awareness campaign like this does good. It not only raises awareness but in a strange way it creates a community. A community that nobody wants to be in, granted, but a community no less. A community where we have all, at some stage in our lives, experienced pregnancy or infant loss.

I experienced pregnancy loss following a number of years of fertility treatment. I had secondary infertility and we had tried a number of different treatments over the years. After the weekly blood tests and the twice monthly scans, trying for a baby had definitely lost its romance. It was now clinical. Mind you,  I would have had sex whilst standing on one foot with my right hand behind my back, reciting the alphabet in reverse order in Latin if they’d told me that would improve my chances of becoming pregnant. Every month I’d have to make ‘the call’ to the clinic to see whether the bloods had come back positive with pregnancy hormones and let’s face it, after years of trying, I was pretty used to them saying ‘I’m sorry, it’s a negative’. I’d have a mope about and then I’d get straight back on that rollercoaster of hope and think to myself  ‘this cycle is going to be the one’ and so the cycle continued. So when I made that call from my desk at work and they told me it was positive I didn’t quite believe them. For me, at this point, the hurdles had been overcome. I was pregnant! Nothing more could stand in our way – we were having a baby!

When on fertility treatment, you have early scans so we were scanned at six weeks. We were warned that a heartbeat at this stage would be unlikely so not to expect much; it was for monitoring purposes. I can’t say that when I lay on that bed in the scan room I expected anything other than the sonographer telling me everything was looking as it should in there. We didn’t get bad news, per se, but it wasn’t great either. The sonographer did some measurements and expressed some concerns but said it was likely because the scan had been arranged for too early on in the pregnancy. They said to come back again the following week. The following week came and we had another scan and this time they advised we may be able to see the heartbeat. We waited and waited but again we were met with concerned faces. The sonographer pulled in another colleague and they zoomed in and zoomed out, they moved the screen about, they got up close to the screen. Again, they advised they didn’t see what they wanted to see but that we could be a week too early. I asked them for a glimmer of hope and they gave it to me. They said that it could be that it was just too early for a scan but at 8 weeks next week, they were sure they would be able to see what they needed to see to reassure us that our baby was growing fine.

That week was a tough week. It was long. It was hard. At 8 weeks pregnant barely anybody knew which meant there were very few people to confide in. Those I did confide in would tell me exactly what the Doctors had, it was just too early. Hang on in there for one more week. I’m sure this time next week you’ll have seen your baby’s heartbeat and everything will be fine. After all, you’re still being sick, you’re still off coffee – they’re good signs, right?

Something in my gut at this point told me that despite the morning sickness and other pregnancy symptoms, something wasn’t right in there. When the 8 week scan finally came, I was ready for answers. Living in limbo for three weeks had been tough on us and I was tired. I was exhausted of lying awake at night analysing every symptom or every ache or pain. I was exhausted of having to keep it all together emotionally when inside I just wanted to have a wobble. The scan started and within five minutes there wasn’t just one sonographer in the room but there were three. One thought they saw something but then the second didn’t agree. The third was unsure. They dithered about. They called my Professor in. She had been our specialist throughout our treatment. Within thirty seconds of looking at the screen she delivered the verdict and she did it with absolute certainty. I hated her at the time for it because it wast the verdict I wanted but looking back, that definitive answer was definitely needed. The long drawn out uncertainty of her other colleagues was soul destroying.

Our baby had started to develop but had, for some unknown reason, stopped developing in the early stages of the pregnancy. My body hadn’t even realised it yet, hence the continued symptoms. That afternoon I was sent across to the hospital to arrange the surgery to remove the pregnancy. I remember being in a side room in the hospital waiting for one of the nurses to come and explain what was going on and I felt numb. I felt like I wasn’t there, like I was almost looking down on myself being there, watching it from a birds eye view. This wasn’t happening to me. It can’t be. We’ve tried for this baby for years – six years in fact. When the nurse did come in I couldn’t even bring myself to look at her, or to process what it was she was saying. It felt like I had just emotionally shut down. I didn’t want to talk about it and I didn’t want to know anything about what was to happen next.

The surgery the following day made everything seem so medical, so clinical and so final. The nurses were sympathetic but all the sympathy in the world wouldn’t make this any easier. I remember coming round from the procedure afterwards and feeling empty. I felt physically empty and I felt emotionally empty. An infection following this procedure meant that my body was in for a long period of recovery from the miscarriage. I was ill for a good few of the weeks that followed. I had to return to the same ward because of the infection and that was difficult. I remember being referred to an occupational therapist because of the time I had taken off work and he very insensitively suggested that I should only have had two days off sick for a miscarriage. Two days! There was a complete lack of awareness of how a miscarriage impacts on someone emotionally, let alone physically.

Throughout the whole journey we were on, my husband was incredibly strong for us both. I knew he was broken too but he put a good front on. He really stepped up for me and I won’t ever forget the way in which he put his own emotions to one side in order for him to support the difficulties I was having with mine.

I chose to tell some family and some friends after this happened because there were questions being asked about my health, about absence from work and so on and it was too difficult to conceive a lie at this point. I only told those who needed to know though and as I look back on the whole experience now I do wonder why I made that decision. Miscarriage isn’t something to be ashamed of so why do we shy away from telling those around us about what is going on? For me, it was difficult because I hadn’t told many that I had been pregnant, never mind that I had miscarried. I couldn’t bring myself to say to someone ‘by the way, I was pregnant but I’m not now. And I’m not coping very well’ with it. Had I have been more open with people about being pregnant in the first place, I think I would have felt very different about opening up about the miscarriage.

I’m not sure why there is still this stigma about waiting for that 12 week scan before telling people you’re pregnant. I get that people are cautious and don’t want to celebrate the pregnancy prematurely but should the worst happen, it leaves you with nobody to confide in. If nobody knows you’re pregnant, there’s nobody there to support you through the miscarriage.

We were lucky enough, four years later (after two further years of fertility treatment and then a break for two years) to be blessed with another pregnancy. It was a shock. We had decided to stop the fertility treatment after being told it was highly unlikely that we were going to conceive again. Instead of the squealing celebratory response to the positive pregnancy test I instantly felt anxious. It wasn’t like the last time where I believed we had conquered all the hard bits by getting pregnant. I knew this was just the start of a very difficult journey to come; a journey that would see me never relax and never enjoy the pregnancy. We told all our close friends and family straight away. I didn’t want to be isolated if it all went wrong again. I wanted to make sure that I had a network of support around me incase the worst happened again.

After eight months of anxiety, liver complications, regular bleeds and lots of prayers that this time would be different, our baby girl was born by emergency section. She will be 2 in a week. After we made the painful decision to give up the fertility treatment and to accept that we were never going to have a second child, never did we expect to find ourselves with the beautiful baby girl that we had dreamt about for so long. She has definitely eased the pain that came with having the miscarriage but it’ll never be something that I will forget. It has made me fiercely grateful for what I have. I have two beautiful children and I know every day how blessed I am to have them. Even on the toughest parenting days (and let’s face it, we all get them!) I know I am blessed and I am so grateful.

For those who have experienced miscarriage, I am thinking of you. I know this is tough. It’s just shit. There’s no polite way of describing the situation; it’s just shit. I’ve been where you are now and I know that grief is heavy and the darkness you feel around you is thick, like a thick fog. You will get through this. You won’t ever forget this but you will get through this. Talk to people. As hard and inconceivable it may seem, talk. Let people in. Let people know what you are going through. You need them. Take one day at a time and when a day seems too much, take one moment at a time. Allow yourself the time and space to grieve. You are entitled to grieve for your baby, no matter how early on in the pregnancy you experience your miscarriage. It doesn’t matter how small or how formed the baby was inside the womb, the baby was your baby in your head and in your heart. You had hopes and dreams for that baby in the same way others do for their children. You may have envisioned what your baby would look like,  perhaps, inside your mind,  you had played out the moment you would first hold your baby in your arms. You need to grieve that loss and you have every right to do so. Take your time.

Oops I had an Opinion….

I’ve never been the type of person that yearns to put their point across. Just the other week I was at a big business Expo event and I attended various workshops, one of which loved the whole ‘audience participation’ thang (groan…). They asked for opinions on a certain issue and boy did I have them in the bucket load; did I say them? No. Did I raise my hand to signal I had something to say? No. Did I sit there thinking about my opinion, hell yeah, I always have an opinion. I did feebly open my mouth to express it on a couple of occasions (accompanied by the deafening thud of my pounding heart as public speaking isn’t really my bag) but quickly closed it again when someone else started speaking. So, you see, I’m really not one of those people that loves the sound of my own opinion being aired to the masses. I’m opinionated but I keep a water tight lid on them.

But, you know, every now and again a subject will come up that either lights a fire in my belly or rubs me up the wrong way, and when this happens I’m not so good at keeping that lid on my opinion. It, sort of, loosens a bit and my opinion ends up inadvertently spilling out on to whoever happens to be there at the time the lid pops off (when I talk about this metaphorical ‘lid’ I’m more imagining a champagne cork; it’s a bit more glamorous that way.) .

When I read an article in The Independent about a Sexuality Expert’s thoughts on parents asking their children’s consent prior to changing their nappy, I immediately felt extremely uncomfortable. There has been a lot of talk of consent in the press and it is clearly an issue that sparks a lot of debate. For me, the more the issue is in the press and the better we, and the upcoming generations, understand the issues surrounding consent, the better. It is something we all need to understand, promote and respect amongst society. My discomfort came from the issue being discussed by a person described as a ‘Sexuality Expert’. The idea that nappy changing was being discussed by a sexuality expert made me feel uneasy. I worked in Child Protection for almost five years and the things I saw, discussed and read during that time still haunts me today, almost fifteen years later. So, I get that I may be slightly sensitive when it comes to issues such as this. I’ve sat at a table opposite some true monsters. Monsters that really didn’t understand consent. Monsters that didn’t care nor respect children and their right to be protected, kept safe. So, when a ‘Sexuality Expert’ starts commenting on the act of nappy changing, something that, to me, is an innocent act that is part of the every day care of my baby girl, it started to hit a nerve with me. Nappy changing isn’t an act that should be associated with sex or sexuality. It is merely about ensuring your child’s basic needs are being met when they are too young to see to those needs themselves.

So, throw in there the issue of ‘consent’ (an issue heavily associated with sexual relations in the media) and this article started to feel very wrong for me. I am a good mother; my husband is a good father. When we change our baby’s nappy it is an act of innocence born out of the need and desire to take care of her the best we can. When we are frantically pulling fifty five baby wipes out of the packet (when we were only after one single wipe, that is possibly the most irritating baby-wipe-malfunction ever) and trying to scrub the brown stuff off our baby girl before she gets the opportunity to stick her feet (or, quite frankly, her hands – she’s very explorative at the moment….) in it, we aren’t thinking about consent because we are innocently seeing to her needs, we aren’t disrespecting her body, we aren’t thinking about sex or sexuality – we are, quite simply, being mum and being dad.

I never thought I’d see the day I agreed with Piers Morgan (a man with an incredible ability to piss me off just by merely breathing) but when he opened the debate on ‘Good Morning Britain’ (I just had to google the name of it because I still call it TV-AM, a true sign of being an 80s child….) and they were discussing the act of asking a baby for consent prior to the nappy being changed, I found the whole thing ridiculous. And so did old P-Dog. I bet that’s the first and last time we ever agree on something. If I waited for my daughter to give her consent for me to change her nappy, we’d be up to our eye balls in the brown stuff. We would be living at 108 Poo street in Poo-ville, the Poonited Kingdom. I can’t get my little girl to consent to eating a carrot, never mind her agree to have her nappy changed. I literally have to chase her around the floor until I’ve got her in such a position that I can whip her nappy off (whilst praying there are no surprises inside that are going to fly out and splat on our new wallpaper) get her cleaned up and send her on her merry way with a clean nappy on and all in around 0.3 of a millisecond otherwise it’s meltdown mania. Most of the time the process leads to meltdowns of grandeur. It can be a two-person job sometimes! There is not a chance that my baby girl would ever volunteer or actively consent to having her nappy changed.

When the specialist on TV-AM (or whatever…) was asked by Piers how a 3 month old baby gives consent, she said that there are non-verbal ways of communicating consent, like a baby will relax its shoulders because it will feel happy that his or her nappy will be about to be changed. I’m not sure if my two were just wild or possessed (or both) or what but even at 3 months, they were not fond of the nappy changing thing. No-siree. There were no relaxing of the shoulders or giving non-verbal signs that they were in any way enjoying being changed. They gave plenty verbal signs that they weren’t enjoying it, mind. There were plenty of them. The neighbours 5 doors away heard them every bloody nappy change.

My biggest gripe with this whole debate is that if we are to teach consent to our children, we have to be 100% committed to respecting their consent (or lack of it). To ask a child for consent to do something, something that we know, as parents, that we have to do regardless of their consent, is teaching the very opposite of consent, respect and trust, so why ask for consent in the first place?! My feeling is that every child should be taught consent. They should be taught to respect their body and that they have autonomy over who touches, and what happens to, their body. I’m not arguing with that in the slightest. What I do struggle with is introducing it at such an age where the baby is physically, cognitively and emotionally unable to understand the concept of consent. I also really struggle with teaching consent through an activity that has to be carried out regardless. What is that teaching them? That their consent means nothing. In the same way that when I change my baby girl’s nappy no matter how hard she protests so that one day she learns that nappy changing is something that has to be done no matter how strongly she feels about it, children who haven’t consented to their nappy change who go on to be changed and have their consent ignored, will learn that consent means nothing and that, for me, is the most dangerous thing about this whole debate.

If we are ready to teach consent to children who have the cognitive ability and the emotional literacy to understand the concept of consent, we have to be willing to respect that consent otherwise it will only serve as a reminder of the fact that their consent just doesn’t mean anything. We can’t have a generation of children growing up under the impression that consent is something that can be ignored, or something that really doesn’t matter. That is the very last thing our children, and our society, needs.

My bottom line on this is that the issue of consent is absolutely something we have to approach with our children but from an age where they have the ability to understand. I think that asking for consent from a baby to change their nappy only serves as a means to make us feel better about doing it. It tricks us all in to thinking that we are respecting the body, wishes and feelings of that baby but in reality, that consent means nothing. Absolutely nothing. Because them withholding their consent  makes no difference whatsoever to what happens to them. And we can’t risk that sort of culture emerging with the next generation.

We can only teach consent when we are truly willing to respect the child’s response. Until we are completely committed to respecting their view on consent, we shouldn’t be introducing the idea because it will only have a negative effect on their perception of the issue.

I (stupidly) got a little bit too wound up over this debate and put out a flippant tweet explaining that I was fed up of hearing about it and that I thought the idea of gaining consent from a baby was ridiculous. It wasn’t directed at anybody, it was just me needing to vent about a topic that was irritating me somewhat. It got a mixed response; people agreed and people didn’t agree. Most who didn’t agree explained their reasoning in perfectly respectful terms and I have no issue with that whatsoever. It would be a boring world if we all felt the same way about everything, after all. There is nothing wrong with a healthy debate. Everybody is entitled to their opinion; that’s the beauty of free speech.

There’s always one though, hey. Someone really didn’t like my opinion and had worked out that, from the fifteen words or so in that one single tweet I put out, I didn’t have the intelligence to understand the wider issues surrounding consent. I didn’t much like the suggestion that I hadn’t fully understood the issue of consent, particularly given my background in both child protection and teaching, so I explained that I fully understood the matter. I wasn’t rude or argumentative, I just defended the idea that I was a complete and utter nugget who didn’t have the first clue about what I was talking about. I always say that in life you never know the battles people are facing and therefore, I don’t ever like to be confrontational or disrespectful because you just never know the impact that could have on someone, particularly on social media, where you interact with people that you’ve never spoken to before. So I maintained my position but I did it with respect. A couple of others entered the “discussion” and most of them were supportive of my opinion. A couple of lovely people with well meaning intentions challenged the person over the way in which they had spoken to me and BANG! Then the fireworks started going off. It got pretty personal very quickly, with comments being aimed ay myself and one of the people who had stuck up for me about our age, lack of understanding and there was even a ‘why don’t you stop arguing with me and go and see to your kids instead?’ type comment, clearly suggesting that being on Twitter made us poor parents because we should have been dealing with our kids instead. They were in bed, by the way. Not that we need to justify ourselves.

I did the thing that frustrates my hubby the most about me. I sat and wrote out response after response after response but I let my finger hover over the ’TWEET’ button for just one moment too long and the hesitation was enough for me to have second (third, fourth and fifth) thoughts, scrap the tweet and start all over again. I would scribble a response in haste, wound up, but by the time I reached the end of the tweet I had calmed down enough to question whether it was really wise, or appropriate, to respond in such a way so then I deleted it all and started draft 2, draft 3, draft 144 –  you get the idea. None of those drafts made it out in the Twittersphere.

I would love to say that those small comments or ‘digs’ made about me didn’t bother me but, you know, actually they did. And I don’t have any reservation about admitting that. We are all human at the end of the day. I often feel old enough looking at all the twenty somethings smashing it on social media every day so that comment about our age (she approximated that we were 40, she was a few years out and, let’s face it, when you get to nearing 40 every single year counts!) did bite a little bit. The suggestion I was too stupid to understand the bigger picture of the debate hurt too. I try to live my life being as least judgemental as I can because I know how it feels to be judged and would hate to do that to someone else; so when she made the assumption based on my tweet (and maybe my profile picture, I don’t know…) that also got me a little bit. Social media as a general arena is very public so to be accused of, in other words, being stupid, I was acutely aware of all the other people that would see it too and that didn’t feel good. Believe me I wish I didn’t give a shit. God, it would be so cool not to give a shit. I would LOVE not to give a shit.

Despite feeling a little bit miffed, I maintained my composure and the ‘debate’ was over in a milli-second. I thought nothing more of it. The following day, more lovely peeps from Twitter replied to my original tweet with their views. It’s, very obviously, been a topic that has stirred up strong opinions in a lot of people so my initial tweet got engagement from people who also wanted to state how they felt about the issue, and they were very welcome. Again, it was a mixed bag, some agreed and some disagreed. Apart from reading everybody’s replies with genuine interest, I thought nothing more of it. Until I received a notification that the original tweeter (or twitterer, I’m not 100% on the Twitter etiquette so forgive me…) who had taken such issue with my opinion was at it again. She mocked me about interacting with new people who had replied that day, telling me to ‘get over it’ and suggested I had harassed her all day because she had automatically been tagged in to every reply made to the original post due to her initial reply. When accusations like that were starting to be bounded about I wanted to switch off my phone (actually, I wanted to throw it through a double glazed window in my office but I thought it would be unfair to expect the cleaners to tidy up the glass afterwards) and run away. I thought how on earth can one tweet cause so much hassle? I get that it is a topic that people will respond emotionally to. I get that people are passionate about their opinion. But being passionate about your own opinion is different to being passionately negative about someone else’s.

I did reply, but only to tell her that I had not tweeted her once and I explained the way Twitter works and that her being tagged in is automatically done by the folk behind the blue bird. I left it at that. I was biting my tongue and sitting on my hands but I left it at that.

Social media has revolutionised the way we communicate. It has changed the way we do, just about, everything. I have met some truly beautiful people on Twitter, and I have witnessed some despicable behaviour on Twitter. I’ve been a bystander in kick off’s on other people’s posts before and when I think about some of the horrible, nasty and unkind things I have read others say to each other, what I experienced on my post was nothing in comparison. Social media provides us with a community in which we should feel free to discuss our opinions, ideas, thoughts and beliefs without fear of unkindness in response. I can listen to opposing opinions all day long (in fact, I am a true believer in that doing so widens our minds) but if someone mocks you for what you think and gets personal in a bid to fuel an argument (I’m not sure why anyone would want an argument mind, maybe there wasn’t much on the telly or something…) it’s just not fun.

I’m not sure I will be rushing back to Twitter (or any social media platform for that matter) to share my opinions anytime soon. I’ll revert back to that wall flower who is too scared to open her mouth and share her opinion publicly.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this debate though – feel free to comment with them; for the avoidance of any doubt, you can rest assured this is a safe, judgement-free space to share your views!

Have you ever got in to a bit of a hardcore argument on social media? Tell me all about it below!

The Second Time Around

 

 I was just 22 when I had my first child. At the time I remember thinking that I relatively had my shit together, however looking back, I knew zero about parenting and together with my (very young) husband, we were just feeling for the lights in the dark for many years, winging it on a daily basis whilst trying to do the best we could by our boy.

 Less of a child and more a man-child, our boy is 15 now. There are 13 and a half years between our son and our daughter so naturally, we are different people than we were thirteen years ago. I’m sure that’s not abnormal; I’m sure most people change as they get older, whether that be changes in maturity, in temperament, in attitude, in priorities; people must naturally change as they age, meet different people and take different paths with their lives. The biggest change we have seen in each other is the way we parent.

 These are just a few things we have done differently the second time around:

 

  1. Relaxed a bit:

Even at 22 I was highly strung. That was nothing to do with becoming a young mum, I was pretty highly strung before I got pregnant. For some reason, I was just like that. It did, however, spill over in to my parenting. I was a big worrier. If it had been socially acceptable to wrap my baby boy in cotton wool and tie him to my left leg so that he could never leave my side, I probably would have done so. No ‘probably’ about it, actually. I was a ‘text book Mum’ according to my out-law. As much as I would never admit that she was right, I do sort-of-kind-of-agree-through-gritted-teeth that she was right. I was trying to be the parent they talked about in the guide books, the parent you see in Pampers TV Ads or the parent you see in the Mum & Baby magazines. I tried to be perfect. I will never forget the ends of the earth I went to in order to look ‘perfect’ for my Midwife’s first home visit. I got up ridiculously early (even before the baby – what complete and utter madness that was!), washed, dried and straightened my hair, chose a smart outfit (one far too formal to be wearing sitting around the house with a colicky baby) and dolled on the make up. The result? My midwife was suspicious! I thought I’d present as the ‘perfect mum’ and it actually had the opposite effect! She looked at me up and down in surprise as she asked what I had planned for the day. I said ‘nothing’ and she looked utterly confused. Probably because I looked like I was about to go to the biggest job interview of my life; and all three days after giving birth to a whopping nine pound ten ounce milk-guzzling machine.

With my second, there was no reading of guide books, no Mum & Baby magazines (having the time to read them would have been a fine thing) no lusting after the perfect mummy image. I greeted the Midwife in coffee stained pyjamas, with hair that hadn’t been washed in a week and she had to wipe the crumbs of digestive biscuits off the sofa before she sat down. I remember with my first baby feeling really exposed when getting him undressed in front of the Midwife to be weighed. I worried that she was examining the way I was pulling his little arms through his vest. I worried that she would bellow at me ‘You can’t do it like that!!!’. Obviously there had been a large gap between my children so in some ways it felt like I was having my first baby all over again. It wasn’t like riding a bike, much to my dismay, it didn’t all come back to me naturally. There were no two ways about it; I did feel out of touch with it all. But, this time, when the midwife was sat watching me undress my baby girl, I didn’t feel like I was being scrutinized. Yes, sometimes I felt clumsy in the way I was undressing her but that was more about me wanting to be gentle and careful with all five tiny teeny pounds of her. I felt a confidence about the way I cared for, and interacted with, my daughter. A ‘this is the way I parent, like it or lump it’ type of confidence.

 

 

  1. Felt able to ‘let go’ a bit:

I never allowed my son to swing high on the swings at the park, climb the climbing frames, sledge down hills, jump in the deep end of the pool – if I considered the activity to pose even the slightest bit of a risk (even if it was a totally safe, measured risk), it was a no-no. I didn’t encourage him to embrace freedom because I didn’t want him to have any! Looking back I now understand that was more about me than it was about him. I wanted him to need me and for that reason I never made a conscious effort to encourage independence or freedom. Years on, I can see the ill effects of that style of parenting and it isn’t something I’m particularly proud of.

Little Miss is only 17 months old but I can already see a difference in her character and confidence compared to what my son was like at that age; I firmly believe that a lot of that is down to us embracing a completely different parenting style. This time round both my husband and I have made a conscious attempt to ‘socialise’ her, ensuring she spends lots of time with other people so that a dependence on us doesn’t develop. She can, of course, be clingy sometimes, usually when she’s poorly or tired, but she isn’t afraid to go to other adults she knows or play with other children.

We embrace the swings, slides, jumping in puddles and jumping on the bed; she has so much fun and is adventurous as a result. I might have bitten all my nails off in the process watching her but it is her that matters, not me.

 

  1. Became ‘at one’ with crying:

There was never any question as to the pair of lungs my boy had as a baby – he was the loudest baby on the maternity ward; he single handedly out-cried all the other babies. Even when I’d gone through the ‘why is your baby crying?’ checklist and knew he was dry, fed, warm and so on, I always found it really hard to listen to his crying. To me, that was my precious baby telling me he was unhappy and I found it really hard sometimes that I couldn’t soothe or settle him. As he grew in to a toddler, I still would find it hard to see him upset and boy did he know it! He played me like a good’un! He ended up getting his way more times than not. He still does come to think of it!

I don’t know whether it’s something that has come as a result of maturity or what but this time round, I am good with crying. Me and crying have made amends. I don’t want to sound careless because I don’t care any less than I did with my first, but this time I am able to keep things in perspective. A bit of crying is not the end of the world for them or for me. Certainly now Little Miss is a toddler and starting to show she is quite the stubborn and strong willed little thing, we are no stranger to tears and tantrums in this household. The difference this time round is that hearing her cry doesn’t upset me or stress me out. Obviously I’d prefer her to be happy, but her shedding a few tears over not being able to have ice cream for her breakfast, lunch and dinner (nasty mother that I am…) or because she wants to wear odd shoes for nursery is not the end of the world. I now understand that a few tears here and there aren’t going to harm her. And it’s all character building, right?

 

  1. Been Selfish

I used to be the female equivalent to the ‘Yes Man’. I just never said no – like, to anyone. If someone wanted help, whether that be with a uni assignment, their decorating, their work, their babysitting or anything else it may be, I would say yes. I never felt able to say no to anyone, even when the saying ‘yes’ meant giving up my free time or time with my precious family. I’ve gradually, over the years, got a lot better at saying no. My boy got big in the blink of an eye. One day I was cradling him in my arms and the next he’s going out to town with his friends and about to sit his GCSEs. I have longed to go back in time and enjoy him being little for just a little bit longer. I now realise that if I had said ‘no’ more and been more selfish with my time, I would have spent more time with him. I was, by no means, absent from home on a regular basis but when you factor in full time work and all the other bits I said ‘yes’ to, it starts to eat in to the time that should be strictly reserved for family time.

This time I have said ‘no’ more and I have been extremely selfish with my time. I know how quickly my baby girl is going to grow up and I don’t want to miss a thing. If that means appearing like a bad friend, or a boring person who doesn’t have a life outside of her work and children, then I’ll take that. I’ll take that ten fold, because I want to spend every possible moment with my family. They make me happy.

 

  1. Been more ‘Present’

I’m not one of those people that ‘s about to launch in to a lecture about the effect our mobile phone usage is having on our children because a) I’m not judgmental and b) I would be being a complete and utter hypocrite because I’m quite fond of my phone myself. However, speaking from personal experience, I know how easily my phone can hook me in and before you know it, half an hour is passed and you’re not quite sure what you’re looking at or how you got there. I use my phone a lot – for work, for keeping in touch with friends and family, for my diary, for social media and for lots of other reasons. Whilst I acknowledge that I’m quite a heavy user, I also acknowledge that it takes you away from the moment you’re in. I didn’t realise until I went on a social media detox on holiday just how much I was missing by being on my phone a lot. Just like with the above, I know that my daughter’s childhood is going to fly over in a millisecond. I’m not prepared to miss that for anyone or anything. I am definitely more acutely aware of my phone usage when I am around the kids. Yes I’m glued to it once the kids have gone to bed but there’s no harm in that if that’s how I choose to spend my (very limited) free time. When my phone is off or away I am definitely more aware of what is going on around me, I’m more active in conversations with my Big Lad, I’m more able to concentrate on what he is telling me and I’m definitely more present in the moment with Little Miss.

 

 

  1. Been more grateful

After ten years of trying for our second child and battling with secondary infertility, we were always going to feel extremely blessed to have a second child. We have been blessed with two gorgeous children and I feel so incredibly lucky.

However, when we had our first, I was too young to realise just how lucky we were. I took the conception, the straight forward pregnancy and the healthy baby at the end of it all, all for granted. With Little Miss I have felt extremely blessed at every step of the way and her existence has made us even more aware of how lucky we are to have both our children. For a number of years we genuinely thought we weren’t going to have a second child. I’ve sat in the waiting room at the fertility clinic opposite couples without any children. That was an experience that instantly opened my eyes to how lucky we were to be parents at all.

Now we are a family of four, something that I never thought we would achieve, I feel like the luckiest woman in the world and I will never, ever, take either of my children, or the time I spend with them both, for granted.

 

So, you see, the second time around can be very different to the first. It’s no better or no worse to the first, but it can be very different. My only advice would be to relax, go with the flow and you will enjoy parenting so much more. It’s a tough gig, I get it. I have those moments where you just want to scream in to the abyss or sit in the corner of the room sobbing, rocking back and forth. But we get back up, and we get back up again for the gorgeous kiddiwinks in our lives.

I’m blessed but I’m also stressed.

Our Little Miss is almost 17 months now. She can take lots of steps (I think 8 steps is the most we’ve seen so far) independently but seems to be choosing not to walk at this point. I remember with my Big Lad that he still wasn’t walking at 18 months and I remember crying on a not-so-sympathetic Health Visitor’s shoulder, seriously wondering whether he would EVER walk. I’m quietly confident this time round that she will in fact learn to walk. I’m just sitting tight and letting her do it in her own sweet time.

So, it’s not her development that is getting me stressed out. It is her health. I know she didn’t have the best of starts to life (see post here) and to this day I still feel guilt about that, but Doctors are saying that her consistently poor health has nothing to do with her neonatal drug dependance. She is just constantly poorly. When I say ‘it’s been one thing after another’, I genuinely mean it’s been one thing after another. She had a very bad case of Bronchilitis at 8 weeks old and since then she seems to have been constantly poorly. It could be a virus one week, a chest infection two weeks later, hand, foot and mouth two weeks after that, infected eczema the week after – you get the gist. The Paediatrician puts her recurring chest issues down to the Bronchilitis and says it could be a long time for the coughing and wheezing to resolve. As for the rest, there really isn’t any sort of explanation at the moment. I don’t mind admitting though that it is starting to get me down.

Little Miss is a blessing. Both my beautiful children are. In every which way, they are a blessing. Little Miss has had a rough time of it though. She brings us so much joy and she is such a happy-go-lucky little girl with a (usually) placid nature and she always offers a smile. The fact that she is usually so happy ordinarily, makes it hard when she is poorly and withdrawn, quiet and lethargic. She usually has so much energy and character.

I am so grateful that she is healthy. During my pregnancy my husband and I had to face the grim reality that she may not have been born healthy. I know what that fear felt like and when she was born squawking and wriggling about like any other healthy newborn, it felt like all our prayers had been answered. I know that there are so many gravely ill children around the world and I am in no way comparing a few viral infections to families facing those sort of challenges. I know we are lucky; we are so incredibly blessed. But seeing her under the weather constantly is difficult. Seeing her frown more than that ‘light-up-the-world’ smile, hurts. The constant laundry marathon of vomited on sheets and blankets is tiring. The disturbed sleep night after night is exhausting. The ‘she’s too poorly to go to nursery but I need to work, what am I going to do?’ panic is stressful. The fact that one of her first words was ‘Doctor’ was a little bit sad.

When she’s poorly there is nothing I want more than to curl up with her on the sofa and have a duvet day, and you’d think that, working for myself, I would have every opportunity to do so. And I do, occasionally. But, if I don’t work, and the business doesn’t make money, we don’t get paid. So there is more to it than being my own boss and taking time off when I need it.

Last week was a particularly bad week. Little Miss vomited (projectile too, to add insult to injury) in her cot every single night for five nights in a row. During the days there was no sickness but she was in and out, being her usual cheery self one minute and the next be clingy, lethargic and unsettled. Her eating stopped, which is usually the most obvious and first sign that she’s under the weather. It was really hard because she seemed poorly, and not herself, but there was no obvious sign of something being wrong. There was no spots or rashes, temperatures, pulling on her ears or persistent coughing, just her generally presenting as not being right.

On the Friday morning when we got her up and changed her, her nappy was dry. We put it down to her not taking as much milk and water as usual and the vomiting. We thought she may have been dehydrated. We encouraged her to drink plenty water and took her to nursery. When we went to collect her, her Key Worker did the whole collaring us at the door thing before we entered the room with the worried face. My heart sunk. She reassured us that it was probably nothing but Little Miss had slept for two hours in the middle of the morning (we were usually lucky to squeeze a half an hour nap in the middle of the day) and had been dry in the three nappy changes they had done. I was instantly worried; I knew that dry nappies wasn’t a good sign.

We considered taking her to the Doctors straight away but she had perked right up and was singing ‘Wheels on the Bus’ at the top of her voice from the back of the car all the way home, dancing away to the music and seeming on top form. We decided that if we hadn’t had a wet nappy before bed time that we would take her to the Emergency Doctors. We let her stay up a bit later (meanwhile we encouraged her to drink lots of water at every opportunity) and by the time we came to change her, she had finally done a wee. I was relived. It didn’t stop me googling all the bloody symptoms all night long though, getting myself more and more worked up. I agreed with my hubby that if she was no better the following morning we would take her to see a Doctor.

She had a bit of an unsettled night and despite having two lots of milk, once before bed and once upon waking in the morning, when it came to changing her, her nappy was dry. That was when I started to really worry. We let her sit around in her nappy whilst we quickly got ready and she suddenly started screaming, it was a really high pitched scream; she looked in pain. She started pulling at her nappy as if she was sore. We just quickly got her into a sleep suit and took her straight to our specialist Paediatrics A&E hospital.

We are extremely lucky to have a fabulous Hospital with a specialist Children’s A&E unit with specialist Nurses and Doctors who are so natural, warm and welcoming with children. We waited ten minutes max before we were triaged by two Nurses, one of whom we had met a couple of times before. She was so lovely and a familiar face was reassuring. They did her observations and because she had been vomiting as part of this episode of poor health, we were told we wouldn’t be able to wait in the usual waiting area with other patients due to the outbreak of the Norovirus and infection control. We were placed in our own side room which actually worked out for the best as we had our own cot, our own TV and our own space.

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Little Miss was seen by a Doctor within half an hour, he advised that he thought she was presenting as having a virus but that he was concerned about the dry nappies. He was approachable and open and excellent in the way he established rapport with both us and Little Miss. He requested the infamous urine sample. Their policy is to request a ‘clean sample’ which meant catching her urine in a plastic cup – i.e. a mission impossible. Anyone got Tom Cruise on speed dial? No? No bother,  I’ve got this. It sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?! Nah-Ah.  I remember when she was admitted as an 8 week old baby we had to do that and I remember thinking ‘Oh my God, this is impossible!’ but little did I know that that was actual a piece of cake compared to repeating the task but this time with a very energetic, mobile, stubbornly independent baby-come-toddler. It didn’t help that Little Miss was over tired from missing her nap. We tried to encourage her to drink loads but try as we did, there was no sign of this urine.

I rocked her to sleep and she had a short nap in the cot. I stupidly thought she may wee in her sleep. I definitely wasn’t right. The Doctor kept coming by the room asking if we had managed to get the sample yet, so did the nurses. There wasn’t a fifteen minute period that went by where we didn’t see one of them checking in on us. When Little Miss woke up she was really grumpy and unsettled. It was obvious that something was making her extremely uncomfortable. She wanted a cuddle, then she didn’t want a cuddle, she wanted to watch Cbeebies on the TV, then she wanted it off, she wanted her drink but then she didn’t want her drink – nothing was of any comfort to her.

This went on for a good few hours before she started screaming in pain and as I comforted her, my hubby spied that long awaited trickle and caught it in the cup (almost perfectly but there were a few unwelcome splashes here and there on my leggings and the like). I could see her relief as soon as it was over. She instantly perked up, her whole face just brightened. She smiled and giggled again and was far more settled. The Doctor took the sample away and almost immediately returned to us and said they had found cells in her sample that were indicative of a urine infection but that it would need to be sent to the lab and it takes 3 days for the cultures to grow (or something like that, all the medical scientific stuff goes right over my head. If it aint fixed by a bit of Calpol and a squirt of olbas oil, I don’t have a clue!). The Doctor discussed the situation with us; he said that we could wait until the test results were back before starting antibiotic treatment to avoid the possibility of her taking treatment unnecessarily but he also said that if it does turn out to be a kidney infection or similar, waiting three days could cause damage to her kidneys. We took the decision to have her start the antibiotics straight away. The Doctor was so lovely, reassuring me that I wasn’t being a pedantic mother making a bad decision. He placed the decision firmly in our hands, having given us all the information we needed and said he would support us either way. It didn’t take long for us to decide; risking the health of her kidneys would never be an option for us.

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While we waited for the prescription and discharge notes to be completed, Little Miss seemed to get a second wind and started enjoying the attention she was getting on the ward. My Husband discovered the play room and although she wasn’t allowed in there due to infection control, he found a toy pushchair and a little ride-on car and brought it in to our room for her to play on. That was it! She was off! Riding around the corridors like she owned the place, a big grin from ear to ear and definitely, definitely not looking poorly! Isn’t it incredible how children can go from one extreme to another within minutes?!

She got given a sticker, lots of high fives, waves and attention so I definitely don’t think the experience was traumatic for her! That is the benefit of having such a specialist children’s unit at our hospital. With my eldest I remember sitting in the same A&E as adults with various injuries or dispositions of varying degrees of seriousness and waiting for five, six hours sometimes in a waiting area not equipped to entertain children in any way whatsoever. It never put me at ease, that place. It felt traumatic just to sit in the waiting area. It certainly was never a place I relished taking my child to. Not that I want to ever have a need to take either of them to hospital, but, if it has to happen, we are so lucky that we have such a specialist unit on our doorstep for them.

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I know the NHS gets bad press but I cannot fault the care we have received, both on Saturday, and over the years. We really are so lucky to know that, should one of our children gets hurt or ill or injured, we have a place to take them, staffed with a team that we have faith in and trust. That is something not to take for granted. Ever.

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Saturday was a reminder of how blessed we are. I’m sure, in that hospital, there were children gravely ill. We were one of the lucky ones that eventually got to go home. Yes, it’s stressful when they get poorly. Tell me one element of parenting that isn’t! So, I may be stressed to the point of finding one too many grey hairs than I would care to admit at the ripe old age of 37, but I am so, so, so blessed.

I think I’m finding myself again

I’m sure many of you will understand me when I say I think I’ve lost myself for a little while. I’ve never been one to think or feel that in becoming a mum I lost myself, because I definitely don’t feel like that is the reason for it. I’ve been a mum for fifteen years so although we have a baby (more a toddler these days but I’m not ready to part with the term ‘baby’ just yet..) being a mum isn’t new to me. After ten years of trying to conceive our little lady, becoming a mum again was something I had dreamed about over and over and over again. My arms yearned to hold a baby; my heart yearned to be a mum again. When Little Miss came along she completed our family and with her she’s brought such joy. Both of them have.

 

So why do I feel like I’ve lost myself? I suppose I hadn’t really realised I had, to be honest. As a working mum, I throw myself in to the same routine every day, getting ourselves up and ready, getting the Big Lad off to school, getting the Little Miss off to nursery, getting to work, dealing with whatever work throws at me, then home with the kids and the bedtime routine ensues. By the time they have both settled down I am fighting with all my might to keep my eyes open.

 

As much as I love work and as much as I am passionate about my business and excited by where we are taking the business, I got myself in a rut, doing the same routine day after day with no time reserved on any day for doing anything specifically for ‘me’.

 

Last year I went through a period of going swimming a few times a week, only for half an hour each time, but it offered me some time just to focus on nothing other than myself. I was feeling much better on a physical level and it did me good to get out and do something outside of our usual routine. Then the winter came and I got lazy. I opted to curl up on the sofa in my pyjamas rather than head out for a swim. And now I’m out of habit of doing it and there just never seems any time for it anyway.

 

It wasn’t until my Mum and I went to a Psychic event and one of the Psychics picked up immediately on the fact that I had been feeling down and not feeling myself that I even recognized that I hadn’t been myself. It was like, in one statement from the Psychic, I suddenly realised that I had been feeling pretty low and not myself. I guess as mums we push our own emotions to the side and we rarely have the time or inclination to process them and really consider why we feel what we feel.

 

The revelation made me really thoughtful. I realised that I had stopped doing even the smallest of things that used to bring me pleasure as an individual. Not as a mum, not as a wife, not as a business owner – but as me. I realised that I hadn’t read a book in a very very long time. As an ex English Teacher, I’ve read hundreds of books and thoroughly enjoyed many of them. So why had I stopped reading? Maybe because I didn’t have time. Maybe because I didn’t make time for it.

 

The one thing that really lights fire in my belly is writing. I have always written creatively and nothing gives me greater satisfaction. Yes, I’ve written the occasional blog post but I haven’t explored the daily ideas I think about for future pieces of writing and I can’t understand why; there has been nothing stopping me doing a bit of writing after the kids go to bed each night. The only person stopping myself from doing it is me. I can’t even begin to understand why I would stop doing something that gives me such satisfaction and enjoyment.

 

Over the course of the last couple of weeks I have really made an effort to pursue time on a daily basis dedicated to what I want to do, dedicated to what will bring me enjoyment for me. I have started writing creatively again and it genuinely excites me. I have bought some new books and have started reading again. I might only manage ten minutes of reading a night before my eyes decide to close themselves out of sheer tiredness but that doesn’t matter – at least I am going to bed each night knowing that I have had some time out of that daily routine all about everybody else, to focus on me and what makes me happy.

 

As a woman I think we naturally tend to put others before ourselves. We’ll happily do whatever it takes to make our children happy, make our husband happy, or our parents, sister; the postman or the candlestick maker; we are generally far more comfortable devoting time to making others happy rather than spending time on ourselves.

 

I have had a realisation that in order for me to the best Mum I can be, I need that time for me. Having that time for me means that on an emotional level I am so much more happier and we shouldn’t underestimate the impact this has on our parenting.

 

Being a mum, or taking on any other roles, doesn’t mean we have to lose ourselves. I hadn’t even realised that I had got lost in the routine and monotony of the every day. I’m sure it won’t be the last time it happens. I think even just by acknowledging the fact that as people, as human beings, we deserve time for our interests, our ambitions, our hobbies, our enjoyment; is a huge step in the right direction.

 

I know how full on it can be as a Mum. I’ve done the nights where Little Miss has resisted sleep until the small hours and then you’ve got to get yourself straight to bed so that you’re able to be even the slightest big functional in the morning. I’m not daft enough to believe that there will always be time to focus on ourselves every day but we should definitely take ownership of that time where it is possible. Grab the five minutes here, the ten minutes there and spend it wisely. Spend it on something that ignites your soul. Something that excites you. Something just for you. Because, ultimately, we deserve it. It’s working for me. I’m so much better for it too.

How to Survive the First Year of Parenthood

How to survive the first year of parenthood….

So, as many of you know I have a 15 year old lad and a just over one year old little girl. Due to fertility issues it took us ten years to conceive our Little Miss and during that time we forgot it all. I forgot how small newborns were. We forgot how exhausting the sleep deprivation was. We forgot the timescales for weaning and immunisations. We forgot how much babies cost. We forgot EVERYTHING. The only thing we hadn’t forgotten was how to make a baby (and thank goodness for that!).

In a way, I think it was a purposeful loss of memory. Like all my brain cells got together and agreed ‘If she remembers how sheer bloody difficult it was, she might never want to do it again so let’s wipe her memory. Get rid of it all! The all-nighters, the projectile puking, the soggy shoulders, the I-haven’t-washed-my-hair-in-three-weeks look and every other tough time that they went through. Sayonara memories! Smell you later!”

Maybe it was for the best.

So when we were finally blessed with our Little Miss, it all came as quite a shock. Yes, we had been there before, but it was 14 years ago. It was a lifetime ago. A lot of the official guidance had changed so it was like having our first all over again. We were older (but certainly not wiser) and not as spritely as we had been with our first and having a high risk pregnancy followed by a special care baby placed us under pressure from the moment that little blue line changed our world.

I’ll tell you the punch line now though: it was so worth it. On many occasions over the course of the first year, it’s been tough. Like really tough. But never has ‘tough’ been so joyful, so full of love, so fulfilling.

 I’m no parenting expert (says the woman who has to bribe her one year old with a bag of Pombears, the top of a french stick and half a packet of chocolate buttons just to get round half of Asda) but thought I would share a few things we learned along the way:

  1. Pack a couple of different sized sleepsuits in your hospital bag. With my first (he was a whopping 9lb10oz so came out the size of a fully grown 3 year old) he was too big for newborn so needed the next size up and with my second, it was the opposite! She was far too small for newborn. I had lovingly chosen what was to be her ‘first outfit’ and all that went to pot when she was born so teeny. I ended up having to send my Hubby shopping for tiny baby sized clothes. I felt awful that I didn’t have something to put her in that fit her straight away. This wasn’t helped by the fact that my baby brain had led me to packing a hat for a 6-12 month old in my hospital bag. I ended up being given one of those nana-knitted wooly hats from the hospital to put on her when she was first born. I treasure it now though.
  2. Try and control your spending – this was something I was TERRIBLE at. I exercised no self control whatsoever but when I was handing over a black bag of brand new, tagged, unworn baby clothes to a pregnant friend, I sure wish I had. My baby would have had to remain at newborn size for three years to get through the wardrobe of clothes I had bought for her. I wasted so much money, which would have been far better spent on the boring stuff like nappies and wipes!

 

 

  1. Try not to romanticise the birth in your head – go in with an open mind, what will be will be. This is a biggie for me because both of my deliveries had their complications. I had an extremely difficult birth with my son which was incredibly traumatic and with my second it was an emergency section. So many mums visualise a boho-chic birthing-pool-with-whale-music-and-absolutely-no-pain-whatsoever- birth. Some mums get it. They are lucky. People like me don’t get that lucky! I think if I had gone in expecting a birth like that, I would have been extremely disappointed. All that mattered to me was that I had a healthy baby at the other end. I know that birthing experiences are very important to women – and so they should be – and women should absolutely have every say over how their birth is managed and planned. Unfortunately for me, both my deliveries went tits up but did it matter? No. My babies matter. They came through it, and that is all that matters.

 

  1. Take control of your first moments together – I learnt the hard way with my first. I welcomed every man, woman and child to meet my son when he was only a matter of days old. I soon felt really overwhelmed with it all. I resented handing my baby around all the friends and relatives for cuddles because I didn’t feel like I had even had a chance to enjoy those cuddles myself. With my second I was a bit of a Mum-Zilla. She was in special care for a while and quite poorly and I didn’t feel up to visitors. Nor was I ready to share her with anyone. We welcomed grandparents (and the cuddles, support and reassurance they brought with them) but we said no to everybody else. Once we got home, I still took my time before inviting friends and family around. I wanted time as a family. I wanted to close the doors on the world and just enjoy her. I wanted my Big Lad to adjust to having a baby sister without the doorbell going every half an hour. I think she was almost a month old before my best friend met her. I don’t regret it though. I’ll remember that time we had, feeling our way through becoming a family of four, forever. It was beautiful.

 

  1. Forget your usual standards. So, you used to have an immaculate home? You used to hoover on a daily basis? You used to make all meals from scratch? You used to put your make up on every morning? Whatever your standards were before having a baby, make no mistake that there is no shame in lowering them (and lowering them again) after having a baby. Becoming parents is the most beautiful gift. But it is bloody exhausting. For a while, you live in a bit of a bubble. A big, love filled bubble of loveliness. Then shit gets real. It has to get real, unfortunately. I would LOVE to spend the rest of my life in that love filled bubble but, and it’s an unfortunate but, life kicks in. The hubby goes back to work. The washing basket is overflowing. The fridge and kitchen cupboards are empty. Reality bursts that bubble and suddenly you are expected to do everything you did before having a baby, now with a baby. I remember on my hubby’s first day back to work after paternity leave, I tried to be the ultimate domesticated wife. I tried to make a hot pot for him coming home whilst feeding the baby and shushing her and hoovering and dusting then shushing some more. I ended up burning the tea. The hoover spit out crap instead of sucking it up because it needed emptying and I hadn’t even noticed. And the milk I had just lovingly fed my baby ended up being sprayed all over the sofa in a reflux inspired vomit sesh. Yup. Never have I ever looked less domesticated.

Just because the hubby went back to work and I was at home on maternity, I felt under immense pressure to be the all-singing-all-hoovering housewife. I put myself under pressure to have a homemade dinner ready for him coming home, a clean and tidy home, a freshly bathed and changed bubba for post-work cuddles and maybe even a dash of lippy on my chops. What he got instead was a warbling hormone crazed mother with vomit in her hair, a shit tip of a home and a burnt hot pot. Did it matter? No. Was he expecting anything different? No. Taking care of baby is a huge deal. It is bloody hard at times. Don’t be afraid to lower your standards while you feel your way in to motherhood. You’ll never look back on this time and say ‘I really wish I had kept my home tidier’ but you might think ‘I wish I had just lowered my standards and focused on me and my baby.’

 

  1. Trust your instincts. On a couple of occasions during her first year, I have felt, instinctively, that something has been wrong with Little Miss. I sometimes felt silly making a GP appointment ‘on a whim’ or phoning the Health Visitor for the 35th time that week to talk through something that I was sure was totally in my head. My GP told me to always trust my instincts. If you feel like something is wrong, don’t be afraid to say so or seek help. The consequences of not saying it could be too big.

 

  1. Sleep is a constant topic of debate amongst parents. Or, more like, lack of it. Sleep deprivation is hard. There are no two ways about it. And as much as I loved to steal extra night time snuggles, when you’ve been ‘night time snuggling’ for twenty three nights in a row with about 40 minutes of uninterrupted sleep, it gets wearing. I was the silly mother trying to be Super Woman, telling her husband to go back to sleep while I sort the baby out. I was worried that he wasn’t getting enough sleep for work. And, well, let’s face it, I’m on maternity leave, so I don’t need the sleep as much as he does. Right? Wrong. We all need sleep. I reckon even super duper survival expert Bear Grylls would agree with me. You’ve got to be in it together. It becomes impossible for one person to continually bear the weight of sleep deprivation. It leads to exhaustion, resentment, illness – it’s not good. Share the load. Do alternate nights, or alternate get ups. You’re in this together. Don’t try and be a Super Hero, just be you, be the best mum you can be whilst taking care of yourself also. You are no good to anyone if you end up collapsing with exhaustion!

 

  1. Take photos. Steal precious moments. Breathe it in. That might sound a bit airy fairy but believe me when I say that time flies. They aren’t small for long and that first year is really special. Even the evenings I spent pacing the floor with a baby who thought sleep was for the weak gave me the opportunity to steal precious moments. Holding her close to me, in the dark, in the silence, just me and her . Ok, I was an exhausted mess, but I consciously told myself that one day I will look back on that moment and want to relive it. So I held her a bit closer. I breathed her in. The smell of her, the soft touch of her skin, tracing her tiny fingers as they grasped mine. There is something to treasure in every moment.

 

  1. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for advice and don’t ever be afraid to ignore unwanted advice. Everyone thinks they are an expert when it comes to parenting. It is one of those topics that no one is ever going to agree on. We all have different ideas, different parenting styles, different ways of doing things. And thank goodness we do – it’s our differences that make us beautiful, after all. Get used to the idea that family, friends (and maybe even complete and utter strangers) will want to share their advice with you – even if you express no apparent need for it. Don’t take it personally. Listen to it if you like, consider it if you want to, but it is equally fine just to ignore the buggar and continue doing your own thing. My mother in law once mocked me for parenting my baby ‘as if I’d read a text book on it.’ I’m not sure what she meant by that. That I was trying my hardest to get it right? That I had done my research? That I was an uptight parent? I’m still not sure what she meant by it and she said it 15 years ago. But the look on her face when she said it definitely suggested that I was getting it wrong. I was only young at the time so it definitely knocked my confidence. Don’t give anyone that power. Parent the way you want to parent. By all means get support and advice but on your own terms – when you want it or need it – and forget everybody else.

 

  1. Finally, try not to compare your child to others. Both my babies have been slow at achieving the physical milestones like crawling and walking. With my first I actually lost sleep over the fact he wasn’t walking at 14 months. I would go to playgroups and see babies the same age as him whizzing around the place or see babies older than him at his nursery well ahead of him. I was convinced he was never going to walk. My Little Miss isn’t being much different either. She’s definitely got a bit of the lazy thing going on. I mean, why walk when you can flutter your eyelashes and get your big brother or daddy to carry you?! She’s a diva in a nappy. This time though I am so much more relaxed. Contrary to my fears, my Big Lad is not still crawling about at 15, he just walked in his own good time. Nothing good can come from comparing your child’s development to that of others. If you have any concerns about their development, it is best to see a professional for advice. Every baby is different, they will achieve milestones at different ages, they will grow and develop at their own pace. That doesn’t mean that there is anything to be concerned about. Just focus on your own little bundle and support them to learn and grow and flourish and they will get there.

I hope the above helps, even if just in a teeny way. Wherever you are in your first year, enjoy it. The joy our little treasures bring to our lives is just immeasurable. They are the most precious gift. Enjoy every moment. Even the poo and vomit filled ones.

Zero Sleeper to a Hero Sleeper!

How we went from a Hero Sleeper to a Zero Sleeper and Back Again

There is almost fourteen years between our first and our second child. We’d got past the sleep deprivation years ago with our first and so had been enjoying many years of lazy lie ins and good, decent nights’ sleep. So when our baby girl came along and brought sleep deprivation with her, it was a shock to the system. Of course, we knew it was coming so we had tried to prepare ourselves mentally for the situation but nothing can really prepare you for the twelve hour long scream-and snot-a-thons and the getting-up-to-put-the-dummy-back-in marathons that see you greet every single half hour on the clock through the night. I hate to digress but when is someone going to finally invent a contraption that keeps dummies in babies’ mouths? I for one would be screaming at Peter Jones from the other side of the telly to invest if someone took that invention into the ‘Den.

Having been through the sleep deprivation that the baby and toddler stage brought with it with our first, and having regained a better quality (and quantity!) of sleep, we desperately wanted to try and implement a healthy sleep routine for our Little Miss. Unfortunately this was impossible when she was first born due to her needing special care (I’m certain there is no night and day in special care – just lots of round-the-clock nurturing and care and lots of lovely, jolly Doctors and Nurses who do an incredible job regardless of the time of day) which saw her needing treatment round the clock. Once we got her home it was essential that we continued with that care and so we had to wake her through the night periodically for her medication. This really disturbed her and interrupted her sleep routine and so, for the first couple of months we just went with the flow. Once she was weaned off her medication though, that was when we really started to think about her routine and how we could promote a better quality of sleep for her (and us!).

Many years ago I did my training to become a qualified Baby Massage Instructor so I was aware of the benefits of using something like massage as part of a baby’s pre-bedtime routine. So, every night whether it was following her bath or her top to toe wash down, I would do some baby massage with her, with the lights low and any sounds down. I didn’t want her to become accustomed to needing silence to chill out and sleep so I was always very conscious to keep some noise going on but I kept it low enough to create a relaxing environment. Little Miss loved a bit of classical music when she was teeny so I used to play that sometimes when I massaged her. She wasn’t keen on lying on her front and being massaged but she did respond positively to lying on her back so I would massage her scalp, her face gently, and then move down slowly to her shoulders, arms, tummy, legs and all the way to her toes. I would always finish with the same stroke; using my two hands across her front and moving them towards each other in the shape of a heart. I would then quietly, and without much talk, slip her into her sleepsuit and give her her dummy and comfort blanket. I then gave her her evening feed and placed her down in her moses basket awake. I was really wary of getting drawn into the routine of having to rock/shush her off to sleep myself and I really wanted her to learn how to self soothe and get herself off to sleep. She did this really well and after looking around for a bit, her eyes would get heavier and heavier and she’d eventually drop off to sleep without any fuss.

It didn’t take long until she recognised this routine as being ‘bed time’ and I was really encouraged by the fact that she was able to get herself to sleep (which helped when she woke for night feeds because I could put her straight back down in the moses basket after a feed and she would go straight back to sleep which meant we weren’t up for long periods through the night) and she was soundly sleeping for sustained periods in between feeds. I was just starting to feel really smug thinking I had totally cracked it, when another month or two down the line she decided that she didn’t much like sleep on a night time anymore and decided that she was going to challenge the beautiful routine we had in place by constantly waking up all the time!

I was gutted. I really had thought that we had nailed it. She got poorly with a bad cold and she developed a night cough that disturbed her sleep terribly and I think, that because it went on so long, she just became accustomed to waking regularly through the night and then she wanted the comfort of a cuddle or a bit of the old ‘rock and shush’. We decided at that point to move her through to her own room. I wasn’t sure what else I could do to improve her sleep and I was acutely aware of the fact that my Hubby snores like a wild boar with a blocked nose so I did wonder whether he was disturbing her (as well as me!).

Things just deteriorated from this point. It got to the point that Little Miss would wake within half an hour of being put down on an evening and then I’d be back up there pacing the floors with her to get her back to sleep, then she’d be up again three or four times before we even made it to bed. Then the graveyard shift would commence and there were many, many nights where I spent more time pacing the floors of her nursery than I did in bed. This went on for months. She wouldn’t settle for my Hubby when he went through to see to her during the night so then I would go in to settle her (which was a big mistake because from then on she would only settle if I went in) and I would spend hours (I wish I was exaggerating but I’m not) and hours trying to get her back to sleep then transfer her in to her cot and exit the room like a stealthy ninja whose life depended on it (only with very creaky joints that like to creak at the most inopportune time). I sometimes hadn’t even made it back to my bed before she would wake again and start crying for me.

I know we all joke about sleep deprivation and we all know it’s coming when we have a baby but when I say I was sleep deprived and barely functional, I am not in any way exaggerating. I was surviving on a couple of hours sleep a night and most of that came from the naps I had when I was sat in the rocking chair in her nursery with her in my arms. I lost the capacity to think straight, to remember, to cope with the smallest of worries. I was an absolute mess. Throw in to the mix a return to full time work and I became ill with exhaustion.

It got to the point where I dreaded night time. I actually put off going to bed on an evening because I couldn’t face the thought of the up and down marathon that would start as a result. I would burst in to tears at the drop of a hat and I felt drained. I had no energy and no enthusiasm. I struggled with that in itself because I consider myself to be a positive and upbeat person most of the time (terms and conditions apply!). I started reaching out to friends and family for advice and I received a flood of ideas – some I knew instantly wouldn’t work with our Little Miss, and some I thought were worth a try. We tried things like the LUSH sleep cream, playing white noise, tweaking her day time naps and lots of other things to no avail. I also did my own research, scouring the internet for any advice or sleep aids that I could try with her. She was reaching one year old at this point and I worried that all of the advice I was reading seemed aimed at younger babies. I worried that we had ruined the possibility of getting her in to a positive sleep routine because she was too old. But both my hubby and I decided that we couldn’t not do anything because we couldn’t carry on with things the way they were.

We decided that we would try controlled crying with her. This wasn’t ideal for two reasons – firstly because her sustained crying would keep our eldest up through the night and he had school to go to in the morning and secondly because I’m the biggest softie to walk the planet and can’t bear to do nothing when she was crying. Her standing at the end of the cot and crying ‘Mama’ so I could hear it on the other side of the door was so hard. I know that this approach gets a mixed response from people. I totally get why some people can’t or won’t try it but I can equally understand why people do it and how they get good results from it. Our experience of it was initially quite bad. We did controlled crying for several hours one night, going in to reassure her every few minutes, lying her back down and so on but the second we left the room she was straight back up again and she almost made herself sick crying one night. It was awful. I know there are much worse things to experience in this world than your baby crying but I found it almost impossible.

We decided to attack the ‘all new and improved’ sleep routine from all angles. We cut out one of her daytime sleeps and we made a point of building in some good quality one to one (or one to two!) play time between collecting her from nursery and her going to bed through the week. I moved her bedtime story up to her room so we now have a story in dimmed lit room before her bed time bottle. We decided to take the leap and purchase a ‘My Hummy’ bear which plays white noise continuously for 60 minutes and has a sleep sensor so the white noise kicks in automatically if she stirs in bed and then it plays for another 60 minutes. I considered it quite an investment and considered buying one for a few weeks. Consequently we ended up ordering one at around 2am one morning when we were both stressed and exhausted and desperate to give anything a try. I had seen the positive reviews on Facebook so I was encouraged but I was concerned that my Little Miss was too old now to start using white noise. But I was desperate and thought anything was worth a try.

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I was concerned because she didn’t take an instant liking to the lovely bear called Filbert – in fact she kept giving it back to me. I don’t know why because it is a beautifully made toy and despite its sound function it is lovely and soft and light. I introduced it to her as a play thing as I had hoped she would connect with it but she was really disinterested. However, I was determined to give Filbert a whirl and give him a chance to make a difference. I placed Filbert in her cot and start the white noise immediately after we finish our bedtime story and just before I start her bottle. She is very sleepy by the time she gets to the end of her bottle and I place her in her cot. She still wakes after half an hour which is really frustrating, it’s almost as if she can’t get in to that deep sleep phase initially. She cries when she wakes but she settles a lot quicker with the white noise going. I go into her room and stroke her head for a minute or so then come back out. We’ve had to do a bit of controlled crying on an evening after she first wakes but she’s not getting half as upset as before with the white noise going on at the same time. We are in there three times maximum before she goes back over to sleep. This happens maybe once or twice on an evening before we’ve gone to bed at the moment; I suspect that despite the best will in the world to be as quiet as possible, the noise of us downstairs and the Big Lad in his room next to hers, she must be being woken by the odd noise here and there. Once we all go to bed she really settles now. She is up maximum once through the night but (and this is HUGE but – get the fanfare at the ready and start up the drum roll…) she has consistently SLEPT THROUGH for three nights now!!! I could never have imagined that introducing just a couple of minor changes could have such an incredible impact.

What a difference it makes too! She greets us with a beautiful smile on a morning because she is well rested and content and I’m not having mummy meltdowns on a daily basis because my brain is actually getting some rest! I appreciate that it is still very early days and I’m acutely aware that all it will take is for her to get a bad cold and it will throw us off course completely but I am feeling so much more confident about her sleep (and my sleep!). Life really is brighter when you’ve knocked out a few decent hours of zeds. It may have taken us a while to find a routine that worked for our Little Miss but now we have, I am strictly going to persevere with it against all the odds if she has a little relapse. As recently as just last night we were doing controlled crying at around 9pm, I was returning to her room every few minutes to lay her back down in the cot and tuck her back in and she was stood crying at the end of the cot. Every bone, brain and heart in my body was screaming at me to pick her up, cradle her in my arms and hold her close. It’s not easy seeing your little treasure upset. Luckily common sense prevailed and I realised we’re in this now – we’ve started this sleep routine, now it’s down to us to ensure that we continue to provide consistency for her. She was fresh out the bath in a freshly laundered sleepsuit and I literally yearned to pick her up and hold her. Then a moment of harsh reality kicked in: my Little Miss didn’t NEED me to pick her up and cuddle her. She might have wanted it, but she certainly didn’t need it. That was more of my need than hers. And it was her needs that mattered. She certainly wasn’t impressed when I simply laid her back down and left the room but within ten minutes or so she was flat out enjoying a lovely sleep – exactly what she needed more than anything.

It’s been a tough few weeks and the lack of sleep has challenged me physically and emotionally but I am so glad we decided to tackle the issue head on. The easy way out would have been to carry on dozing with her in my arms in her nursery but that wasn’t helping anyone. It’s good to just face these things head on and get the right result for our little cherubs.

One final thing, I’m acutely aware that this may sound like a bit of a sales-pitch-type-all-round-love-in for My Hummy. It’s not. I’m not being paid to write this post and my opinions and views are 100% informed by our own experiences of using it. The team behind the My Hummy bears are a bit spesh though. They deserve all the positive reviews and credit they receive. We are totally thrilled with the impact little old Filbert has had on our wee one.

The final #ThisMum: A Day in the Life of Amy.

Well hello festive folks! I’m sure the festivities are in full swing where you are and that you’re getting up to some fabulous crimbo shenanigans! Although that word takes on a whole new meaning when you have to grow up and be Mum! My ‘shenanigans’ aren’t the same as they used to be! It may not be all rock and roll these days but, you know, I wouldn’t change a thing. The best thing about Christmas is being able to see it through the eyes of the kids. It takes on a whole new meaning, doesn’t it? The magic of it all is just so special. I love that for one day in the year we believe in the unbelievable, we embrace the unrealistic and we celebrate family. I know it can be a stressful time for us mums, but   it’s the best stress I reckon. Beats stressing about a looming deadline at work, or stressing that we’ve got two wipes left and a shit storm in a nappy to deal with. Christmas stress is totally acceptable. 

I’m hoping that maybe once the kids are tucked up, you’ve nibbled Santa’s mince pie and deposited the prezzies under the tree you’ll have a couple of minutes to sit down (with a baileys, maybe?) and enjoy the final #ThisMum post of the series. 

Our final #ThisMum is Amy from her blog, Amyjane and Baby. Amy has a gorgeous nine month old baby boy called Freddie. I love that name, Freddie! We were going to call our Little Miss, Freddie – if she’d been a Little Mister, obviously. Amy is a stay at home mum at present and is currently working on her blog. Amy starts with a really honest account of how difficult she found motherhood when Freddie was teeny tiny, explaining that Freddie had silent reflux. I could really relate to this because our Little Miss was exactly the same. I’ve been showered in warm projectile vomited milk more times than I care to mention. I too struggled during it all. My Health Visitor was very dismissive at first. I felt like I was going mad, like I was the only one noticing that my baby girl wasn’t right, that something was wrong. I used to video her after feeds to evidence to the health visitor and GP that something wasn’t right. Eventually they got to the bottom of it and as soon as we changed her milk everything started looking up. 

A lot of mums are reluctant to admit when they are struggling. For fear of judgement, I guess. I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with judgemental folk. It does encourage you to be more tight lipped about your struggles but we should all feel able to be honest, like Amy. It is this denial that causes mums to feel inadequate or a failure, because nobody else speaks out about how tough it can be having a new baby. I know blogging has certainly helped me to be more open about my honest feelings. I can’t thank Amy enough for being so open and allowing us in to her life for a day. It sounds like Amy and Freddie have such a lovely routine going where Freddie gets to spend one on one time with both Mum and Dad. That’s something we need to pay more attention to, I get lots of one on one time with the kids but a lot of the time the kids spend with my hubby are when we’re all together and like Amy says, it is important for Dads to have one on one time too. 

Without any further a do, here’s a day in the life of Amy:

On reflection, it probably took me until Freddie was over six months old to feel properly settled into Motherhood. We had a rough start. At six weeks old Freddie was diagnosed with Silent Reflux and although it breaks my heart to say this, it really tainted the first five months or so. Having a baby that screamed for long periods, wouldn’t lie in his pram and breastfed near enough constantly amongst other things made me doubt whether I was a good Mum or not. Since the Silent Reflux began to go away at around six months, Freddie and I have slowly settled into a routine. I can say with complete honesty now, that I love being Freddie’s Mum and apart from the occasional (and completely normal!) self-doubting moment, I know I am a good one. Here is a day in our life!

Freddie is my first baby and he is now nine months old. I had him when I was twenty-five which seems to be ‘young’ by the current standards. G (my husband) and I have been together on and off since we were fifteen and had settled into life together when I was around twenty so I felt ready. Although I don’t think you can ever really feel ready for a tiny whirlwind to turn your life upside down! I currently stay at home with Freddie whilst G goes to work. I am not sure I will return to my current job but I do know that I personally need something else on top of being a Mum, in order to feel fulfilled.

Our day starts around six-thirty/seven when Freddie wakes up- sometimes earlier! My husband takes Freddie downstairs and they have breakfast together and a bit of a play before G leaves for work. I tend to stay upstairs during that time savouring my morning coffee because I think it is important for the boys to spend some time together on their own too. After G leaves for work, Freddie and I have a bit of playtime and I also try and pop up a post on social media because Instagram is a guilty pleasure of mine!

At around half nine it is time for Freddie’s first nap, it is a short one because I wake him after around half an hour otherwise he won’t nap properly at lunchtime! I try and use this time to get ready because Freddie is currently obsessed with my beauty products etc and I have to watch him like a hawk! I will try and squeeze in a second coffee during his nap as well.

Waking Freddie up at around ten is one of my favourite parts of the day. I get to sneak in and watch him sleep- a bit creepy I know – and then enjoy sleepy cuddles together! I get him ready for the day around this time too. I am obsessed with baby boy clothes and Freddie has a far better wardrobe than I do. Baby Zara, Marks & Spencer and Next are my favourite places to pick up new clothes for him.

The time between his morning nap and his lunchtime nap is generally used for popping out to do errands, see friends or do a class. For the first eight months or so Freddie would be content with just people-watching at Tesco but now that he is crawling and pulling up he wants to explore! We do a Baby Sensory class which he absolutely loves and it is the one class I would highly recommend!

After Freddie has had his lunch, and deposited lots of it on the floor/tried to feed our two cockapoos, it is time for his second nap. Another highlight of my day is reading stories to him before his nap although at the moment he likes to sit on the book which makes it slightly challenging… I also use the time before his nap to potter around the upstairs trying to get some sort of semblance of order. With two dogs and a nine month old, I feel like I spend most of my time tidying up!

Freddie is generally asleep for around two hours so I take that opportunity to work on my blog. I started my blog five months ago and it has really helped me to feel like I have something for myself again. Over the last few weeks, it has started to grow a bit which is so exciting and has really motivated me to keep going. I love writing, I always have. It is so cathartic to share my experience on my little corner of the internet and connect with other Mums as well.

Once Freddie is up, he has a little play and then we head out on a dog walk. When Freddie is having a screamy day, taking him out in the pram with the dogs really seems to settle him. He loves facing out and watching the dogs run around and it helps me to get some fresh air. The rest of the afternoon is a it of a blur of trying to tackle our washing mountain, making Freddie’s tea and then beginning the bedtime routine.

Usually by Freddie’s bedtime, I am ready for a bit of a break. G doesn’t get home until around half six most days so up until recently, he didn’t get to see Freddie before he went to bed. Now that Freddie goes to bed at seven, G gets to have a cuddle before bed which I know means a lot to him. We always go upstairs a while before bedtime so he can burn off any energy by crawling around and getting into everything he shouldn’t… I use this time to pop some comfies on too!

Freddie has a very strict bedtime routine and has had the same one for several months now. To be honest, I think it was more for me than him at the beginning because I needed something to follow when I was finding everything very overwhelming. We do a massage with a special song, then read some books together, he has a final feed and I pop on some white noise. Nowadays he goes to sleep without much of a fuss which is a huge relief because having a bedtime battle at the end of a hard day is tough!

In the evenings, G takes over. He will cook us dinner and make me a cup of tea whilst I crack on with some more blogging stuff. I am trying to go to bed earlier at the moment because sometimes I lose track of the time enjoying the peace and quiet! Freddie is usually up for a feed around 4am but lately it has been a bit later which is a real treat.

Now that I have read it back I am not sure if our day is particularly interesting but I have enjoyed sharing it with you nonetheless. I would love to see you over on my blog soon and thank you very much for letting me share my day with you!

 

Freddie sounds like such a gorgeous boy and I loved all the opportunities that Amy has built in to his daily routine to enjoy songs, books and stories. If you enjoyed this (and I know you definitely did!) then you should go and check out Amy’s blog! You can find it here

If you’re one of these super trendy ‘insta types’ then you can look Amy up on instagram here! I am ashamed to admit that I have never tried Instagram. I know I definitely should for the sake of the blog but I feel a bit over the hill for it. I feel old when I see instagram photos and screenshots. I’ve just got to look in the mirror to feel old like so it’s not just Instagram’s fault I’m getting the pensioner feels! I really need to check it out, I know. I’m going to make an effort to enter the world of instagram in the new year. If you’re already making insta waves, keep an eye out for a lost soul in 2018 and give me a wave! (can you wave on Instagram?! I genuinely have no idea…)

And finally, you can check Amy out on Twitter here ( a platform I’m far more accustomed to!) A HUGE thanks to Amy for being so patient waiting for her guest blog post to go out, it was definitely worth waiting for and I have absolutely loved having Amy involved.

And with that, it’s a wrap! Like, it’s the end! I feel a bit emosh. How ridiculous is that?! It’s not like I’m picking up an oscar and doing my acceptance speech!! I’m emotional thinking of all the lovely Mums who have taken time out of their (very) busy lives to be part of the series. Whether we are a working mum, stay at home mum, a single mum – all mums are busy people. It’s the nature of the job; so I know how valuable time is. You can’t put a price on time when you’re a busy mum. I appreciate so much that all my fantastic guest bloggers have used their precious time to write a fabulous post for the series. As a relatively new blogger it has been a brilliant way to meet fellow bloggers and make connections, building friendships. I know that on a personal level this series has meant a lot to me. Reading about the days and feelings of other Mums has reassured me that I’m not the only mum feeling this, or doing that. Whilst we all lead very different lives, we have one huge thing in common: motherhood – and it’s bloody hard sometimes! Reassured by other posts, I know even more so now than ever that bad days come with the territory, that none of us are perfect and nor should we strive to be, we’re all doing our best.

I really hope that you have enjoyed the series as much as I have. I can’t thank every single Mum who guest blogged for me, enough. You are beautiful people and I wish you a very Merry Christmas. Looking forward to catching up on all your blogs over the Christmas hollibobs!

Now! Go and get yourselves another Baileys! You’ve earned it!

 

A Day in the Life of #ThisMum: Amy

Ola! It’s that time again folks! This time it’s the turn of Amy from ‘The Rolling Baby’ blog. Amy has a beautiful baby girl and is giving us an insight to an average day in her life. She’s currently on maternity leave so it was really lovely to read about how she and her little one spend the days together. I loved that every week they have dedicated time to spend with the baby’s grandparents – they aren’t small for long and sharing the precious first months and years with family is really special – for both them and the baby! My mum lives a good fifty minute or so drive away from me so still relatively local but she doesn’t live close enough for me to just pop in unannounced. She gets so much joy out of spending time with both my children and they absolutely love seeing her. Even my Big Lad, who turns 15 in January, will continually ask to stay over at Grandma’s or to go and see her. He gets absolutely spoilt by her – there’ll be popcorn, sweets, ice cream on the go – the lot! But I love that they have such a close relationship. I know not everybody has grandparents so I feel very blessed to still have two of my grandparents around and that my children have grown up with two grandfathers and a grandmother. Not everybody has that luxury these days and it’s something I won’t ever take for granted. 

Without any further a-do, let’s open the door on a day in Amy’s life!

Little one usually wakes up somewhere between 6:30 and 7:30am. My other half will usually change her nappy while I get her milk ready, then I’ll feed her while he gets ready for work and takes our dog for a walk.

An hour to an hour and a half after first waking up and after daddy’s gone to work, little one will have her first nap of the day. During this time, I grab the laptop and a cup of tea and will blog, catch up on what I’ve missed on Twitter and join a linky (or two!) I usually put either Emmerdale or Coronation Street on in the background too, but have to quickly turn the volume down when the theme music comes on otherwise it wakes up baby.

When little one wakes up, I’ll prepare a breakfast of porridge for us both. Then, we’ll head back upstairs and get ready. Being on maternity leave means we have real lazy mornings and by the time we’ve dressed and ready for the day it’s usually late morning.

From there I’ll do a few chores such as the washing and putting the drying up away from the previous evening’s dinner. We often then go for a walk around the block. It’s not far but it gets us out of the house and some fresh air into our lungs for half an hour or so and the dog loves it! I’ve got a shopping bag clip which I use to attach his lead to the stroller so I don’t have to worry about him running away.

Two days a week we spend the afternoon at my mums. We have lunch there, a catch up, a bit of play and little one generally falls asleep while cuddling her nanna. I usually use this time to do a bit of shopping on my phone – it’s mostly Christmas shopping at the moment, but I also throw things in my online Asda trolley too. When my dad gets back from work, he has around half an hour with little one before we head home to see daddy, have dinner and get to bed.

On the days we don’t go to my mum’s, we mostly potter around the house. Sometimes we’ll go out to the shops – we love a little wander around B&M and it usually sends little one to sleep. I also try to squeeze in an exercise DVD as I’m trying to get fit and lose my baby weight. We play fetch with the dog a lot as little one loves laying on her tummy on the floor so she’s face to face with him and it really makes her laugh.

My other half gets home around 6pm and I try to have dinner ready for then, although it is baby permitting! We’ll eat, give little one a bath and get her ready for bed. She then has her milk before I lay her in her cot and read her a story. From here anything can happen! We encourage her to stay in her cot for as long as possible, but at the moment we’re going through a ‘I’m not sleeping until at least 10pm‘ stage, so when she starts kicking and screaming we usually end up taking her out and rocking her to soothe her.

If we’re lucky we’ll then squeeze in a bit of TV before heading to bed, ready to do it all again the following day!

Ahh, thank you so much Amy for being involved and for guest blogging for me. I have to thank Amy also for being such an all-round-lovely-person too – whenever I take to Twitter to blow off some (digital) steam or I grumble on about not getting any sleep or about the time I’ve spent picking boogas out of my Little Miss’ nose, Amy is always there with something lovely to say. She is so supportive and it is appreciated loads. 

Reading about Amy’s days on maternity leave brought back fond memories of mine. It feels like it was years ago but it was only this time last year. One thing that Amy manages in her day that I didn’t most days was to get dressed and get out! I’m no mathematician but I think it would be pretty bang on to guesstimate that I spent at least 75% of my maternity leave in my Pyjamas, with no make up on and my hair pulled (very roughly) in to the ultimate of mum-buns. The days were never very organised or routine but we bumbled through it, the two of us, enjoying the time together. In the early days I would stress about the state of the house, the never-ending pile of washing and ironing, the lack of time to prepare meals in advance (looking back I’m not entirely sure what I WAS doing mind, she slept for the best part of 3 months!) and the list went on. The best piece of advice I was given was from a friend who told me ‘With a baby you have to lower your standards for everything else, then lower them again’ and I totally got that. Having a newborn baby – any baby – changes everything – your pre-baby routine, your energy levels, your priorities – the lot. It is impossible sometimes to keep all the plates spinning just as fast and efficiently as you did before. I gave myself a bit of a tough time at first over not managing to be the ultimate house wife whilst on maternity leave but my friend was right. As long as the baby is warm, fed, loved and the house is relatively clean (you’ll note I didn’t say ‘tidy’ – my house was never tidy for a number of months!!!) that is what matters. The moment I stopped giving myself a hard time over the absence of any ‘Super Mum’ qualities I started to focus on, and enjoy, the time I had with my Little Miss and now I’m looking back on it, I’m so glad that I did that because it does go over so quick and you can never get that time back again.  It sounds like Amy is a lot more organised than me and that they have a great routine going, it sounds like Amy and her Little One have wonderful days, and that’s what it’s all about.

You can keep up to date with Amy and what she’s up to via her blog therollingbaby.co.uk You will love it so make sure you give it a visit! The #ThisMum series continues on Sunday evening with an amazing guest post written by Jen from the Life-Milk blog. I’m really excited about sharing it with you because for one it is utterly brilliant and secondly, we are yet to feature a single mum and Jen very kindly let’s us take a look at an average day in her life as a single mum to a beautiful nine year old daughter. It’s definitely a post you don’t want to miss so keep your eyes peeled for it on Sunday! Until then my lovelies, have a fabulous week!

A Day in the Life of #ThisMum: The Cuckoo Mama

Well hello again lovely peoples! These Sundays are coming round so quick! It literally feels like two minutes ago I was saying the same this time last week! We’ve had a lovely day today – we did nothing fancy or exciting, it’s been a day of simple pleasures. My husband and I did a bit of a tag team spring clean of the house (Little Miss doesn’t ‘do’ playing independently at the moment – we’re in the throes of a very clingy phase!) so one of us would entertain LM and the other do some house jobs and then swap over! It gave us both the opportunity to sit and play with her and get some quality time with her. Once the house was all spruced up, the teen joined us to put up the Christmas tree. Decorating the tree was a lot more chaotic than it’s been for a number of years now but with a baby on the move now joining us, it was bound to be! She spent most of the time sat in the cardboard box that the tree came out of but she had a great time! I love that my Big Lad, although almost fifteen, still gets so excited about the things we do together. He must have asked us a gazillion times this morning ‘How long until we do the tree?’ and although it started to feel a bit like the ye olde favourite ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ question, I absolutely adore the fact that he still wants to join in with this sort of thing. I really hope that continues in years to come.  Once the Christmas tree was up, we got in our jim jams, stuck movies on the box and snuggled up on the sofa in the warm glow of the Christmas tree lights. As if all part of the plan, it started snowing outside and within ten minutes our estate was covered in a blanket of bright white snow. This afternoon was totally what Christmas is all about for me: time together. Despite it being nothing particularly ‘exciting’ I refuse to ever take days like today for granted. I know how blessed I am to be here, to have a lovely family, a nice warm house and love between us. We are so incredibly lucky.

Anyway, enough about my family; let’s move on and find out all about the Cuckoo Mama’s! I am so thrilled that the lovely Cuckoo Mama wanted to be involved with the #ThisMum series and I am so grateful that she has written a fantastic guest blog, allowing us an access all areas pass to an average day in her life. Carolyn, the lovely lady behind the Cuckoo Mama blog, is mum to a two year old boy called Sam. Sam sounds like a lot of fun, and Carolyn’s love for Sam totally pours out through her writing. It sounds like Carolyn has a fantastic routine in place which offers Sam so much. They manage to cram in so much fun in one day! Life sounds busy but I admire Carolyn so much as it sounds like she’s got a fantastic routine that ensures Sam gets plenty of fresh air, time out of the house, time to socialise and play with other children and lots of fun time with Mum and Dad too. As I read her post, I found myself thinking about the limited time I have with my Little Miss through the working week. I pick her up from nursery around half past four and she’s grumpy and tired from being at nursery all day, she doesn’t really want to play, she cries during her bath because she’s so tired and she’s really unsettled all the way to bedtime – which is around half six. I don’t feel like there is any scope for ‘quality time’ with her Monday through to Friday which really weighs heavy on me. I sneak away from work early from time to time in a bid to secure a couple of extra hours with her when she’s actually got the energy to enjoy some time together but these occasions are few and far between due to work commitments. I really admire and envy the time Carolyn has with Sam. I am absolutely sure that as with anything with motherhood, it isn’t easy sometimes and I bet it can be tiring but what a happy little boy Sam must be to have so much fun with his Mummy! Read all about it here:

I’m Caro, mama to Sam, who turned two in September. I’m a full time, stay at home, mum and opted to do so due to the incredibly long time it took us to get Sam, plus Southern Rail’s ongoing industrial action, which meant a return to my commuter trains was set to be incredibly unpredictable and, with no local family to help out, wasn’t really going to work.

 

So how does my typical day go?

 

Life in the Cuckoo household tends to be busy, relaxed and altogether a little bit bonkers! We usually rise around 7.30am and start the day with a spot of milk in bed and a few books. It’s then in to the shower for a quick rinse with a toddler banging on the door wanting me to hurry up, get downstairs and play with Thomas and Percy! Well, who am I to argue with that?

 

As my husband is now home based, we’re really fortunate that most days we get to breakfast together. For us this is a real luxury as we spent years commuting, in to London, and were slightly like passing ships some weeks. We did worry we might get sick of the sight of each other, us both being at home, but that hasn’t happened yet – luckily he travels a fair bit too!

 

We start the day, come rain or shine, with a pup walk! Pepper pup is also two and we, somewhat crazily, welcomed her in to our family just a couple of months before Sam joined us. They are best friends and I can’t imagine one without the other! Sam is very gentle and loving towards Pepper and she is very patient with him; she’ll even push his trains around the track with her nose when he needs an extra playmate! Sam loves being outdoors and wearing his wellies so he, mostly, never complains at our morning walk, although, as he is now two, tantrums can come out of nowhere!

 

Once we’ve walked Miss P, Sam and I usually rush around trying to get ready to head out to a play group or play date or other activity. I’m aware that, as Sam doesn’t go to a nursery, it’s good for him to socialise with lots of other children and I’ve found some truly lovely play groups and wonderful mums and dads. We’re currently trying to learn how to share, I’ll let you know how that one goes!

 

We then head back home for a spot of lunch and Sam goes down for his nap. I’d love to say, that during the couple of hours he sleeps, I use this time to be Super Wife; blitzing the house, preparing meals and, in the words of the Fat Controller, being a Really Useful Mama… Whilst this sometimes does happen, I usually use naps for blogging, catching up on admin and, I’m really ashamed to say this, but the last few weeks have been used for catching up on Vampire Diaries season 8, please don’t judge! Nap times are also great as I get to pee on my own! I can’t tell you how nice it is to “go” in peace, without a toddler pulling the chain mid way through, or having a melt down because I used some toilet roll – yes that actually happened!

 

When Sam wakes, it’s snack time and then we’re off out to walk Pepper again. We’ll sometimes take her to the park so that she can be exercised and Sam can play, although trying to keep eyes on the pair of them as they run off in different directions can be interesting! It is lovely raising dog and child together but rainy days can feel tough. There are a lot of additional clothes and towelling down, to take care of, but on the plus side; there are mud and puddles! Things Sam loves stomping through and, strangely, Pepper not so much!

 

Once we’re back from our second walk it’s then in to the whole tea time and bed time routine. We have dinner around 5.30pm and then head upstairs at 6.15pm for a spot of “bed tunnel”. Bed tunnel is an incredibly sophisticated game involving getting as many toys, as possible, under our duvet, a Sam, a daddy, when he’s home, and a mama in there too, so that we can sing songs, crawl around making animal noises and generally make a huge mess of the bed! It’s amazing what we find in there when we actually go to bed ourselves; Thomas the Tank Engine was under my pillow last night!

 

It’s then time for a shower and a spot of quiet, naked play (for Sam, not us!) whilst he has his bedtime milk and stories. Sam’s just started to take an interest in the potty and so likes to sit on it and have a wee before getting in to his jim jams for bed.

 

Lights out is around 7.30pm, allowing enough time for mama and daddy to enjoy a glass of wine and catch up on some, more sophisticated, tv than my lunch time viewing! There’s then another Pepper walk, which my husband does, before we hit the hay ourselves and get ready to do it all again the next day!

All the best!

Caro x

Told you you’d love it!! What a fab post; mahoosive thanks to Carolyn from the Cuckoo Mama for guest blogging as part of the #ThisMum series. Go grab a cup of Tea (or something stronger if it’s been ‘one of those days’ – I can recommend gin (and lots of it) for those sorts of days, by the way) and visit Carolyn’s blog – you are going to love it. It’s a blog filled with posts and stories from the very front line of parenting, told beautifully by Carolyn. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for her blog because, like us, she too has experienced the challenges of infertility and so a lot of her posts resonate with me for that reason. It’s a blog definitely worth looking up if you haven’t already; you can find it here.

Keep you eyes peeled for Tuesday evening’s #ThisMum post; another blog post that promises absolute brilliance! On Tuesday my lovely pal Amy from The Rolling Baby will be sharing a day in her life with us, I can’t wait!!!

Massive thanks, Carolyn 🙂