How’re you feeling?

“How are you feeling? I find you really hard to read at the moment”.
This is what my husband just said to me. The truth is, I have no idea how I’m feeling. 7 weeks ago we had our second baby, a girl named Luna, and the new born whirlwind began.  More nappies, more night feeds, more laundry, more worry. More smiles, more cuddles, more kisses, more love.
When he asked me this question I was feeding our youngest daughter whilst watching what our eldest was doing and wondering if she was going to have another meltdown if adverts dared to come on in between dancing to the Trolls soundtrack on YouTube.  We’d just come back from a weekend away and I was also going through the list of things we needed to unpack in order for the bedtime routine to run smoothly.

  1. Gro clock? Check
  2. Monitor? Check
  3. Bed guard? Check
  4. Next to me crib? Check

As well as making sure there were matching pyjamas (there weren’t), towels, nappies and a clean comforter for my eldest. This then led to another train of thought about putting more laundry in the washing machine, making a mental note to buy more washing tablets and wondering when the hell I would have time to iron it all.

In addition to the above, my overall ‘to do’ list looks a little like this:

  • Take Luna’s passport photo and submit application
  • Take Luna’s birth certificate to the bank to set up savings account
  • Set up direct debit for both girls’ savings accounts
  • Make appointment to write wills
  • Pick up baubles from pottery painting place
  • Have appointment with April’s potential school about application process
  • Fill out checklist for April’s 2 and a half year check
  • Buy birthday present for friend
  • Buy and wrap Christmas presents
  • Go to post office to pick up husband’s Christmas present and pay the import duty
  • Order Luna’s stocking
  • Organise life insurance
  • Book catering for Luna’s christening
  • Attempt to maintain some form of social life.

I’ve known from a young age that I wanted to have children, in fact I remember being in a rush to grow up just so that I could have babies. But ever since being a mum my mind sometimes feels like it’s full of cotton wool. Concentration is not my strong point, especially as I usually have one, if not two, small children crying for my attention. I’ll come off the phone to people having no idea what they said because I was too busy chasing a 2 year old around making sure she doesn’t start a fire whilst my back is turned (okay slight exaggeration but it’s shocking what an unattended toddler can achieve in 30 seconds). And now that our new addition requires constant rocking from 5pm until 10pm it’s no wonder my brain is mush.
The truth is, sometimes I feel like I have no time for emotions, I have far too much shit to do to think about the way I’m feeling and it makes me realise how parents whose partners aren’t as supportive as mine feel like they’ve lost their identity.  I’m lucky that my husband makes a conscious effort to give me some headspace from our children. He has work where he can get away and process his thoughts, I have broken sleep during which I try to process mine.  Something as simple as him suggesting I have a bath whilst he watches both children may seem so small but can be so important.  It gives me time to hear silence.

Sometimes I see photos on social media of parents who seem to be out all the time and I think “where are their children? Are they really out every weekend?” and then I have days like this when I realise that these parents just need some headspace, a time to breathe, time to themselves and there’s nothing wrong with that. Without it, we’d all go mad.
Being a parent brings with it a rollercoaster of emotion, one minute your children are being little angels and you’re full of happiness and pride, the next they’re screaming at you for completely irrational reasons and you just want to sit in a dark room in silence.  It’s no wonder we don’t know what emotions are going through our minds if someone asks.
But if you’re a parent reading this then I want to ask you one thing: How’re you feeling?
If the answer suggests you need more “me time” to get some headspace and stop to think about who you are then do it. If you can’t do it right now then please set aside some time to do it. You and your children deserve the best version of you, and if you need to take some time out to breathe then that’s okay, don’t feel guilty for it.

 

Oh and if you’re wondering how I had the time to write this, I wrote it one handed whilst rocking a baby on a nursing chair!

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‘Trying’ to conceive

When a couple decides they’re ready to have a baby they become part of the “trying to conceive” club. For some couples there’s really no *trying* about it. First month of having unprotected sex and boom! They’re pregnant. For others it takes a lot longer…
I was always told at school about how easy it is to get pregnant, basically warned that any kind of sexual contact could risk a little bundle of joy 9 months down the line. I really did think that for me it would be that easy, I’d plan it all out, have baby number 1 when I was 25, baby number 2 at 27 and if I fancied a third I’d have it just before I was 30. What a plan. Can’t go wrong there can I? Or so I thought…
It took 18 months to fall pregnant with our first baby. 18 long, emotional, stressful months.  You see, until you’ve been on that journey you really don’t know what *trying* for a baby really means. It can become a very lonely place, a place that only a few people understand. Until you’ve sat crying every month staring at a negative pregnancy test, sobbed when you’ve heard about the latest relative to fall pregnant, felt exhausted by the heartache of wanting a child, begun looking up every environmental factor that can affect your fertility and changing your lifestyle to adapt then you’ve never really known what it’s like to try for a baby. Of course I meant no disrespect to anyone who hasn’t been there, it’s a dark place and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. But I feel as though it’s best to talk about so that anyone out there experiencing these feelings knows they’re not alone.

After 18 months we fell pregnant with our beautiful baby girl. Pregnancy, for me, was hard. Labour was hard. Being a mum is hard but worth every single tear of stress that falls down my face. Being a mum is also the best thing I’ve ever done, my heart is suddenly full to the brim with love. I have this little human who I would do anything for, who makes me smile when I’m down, who can stress me out beyond belief but with one cute act can make me forget why I was even angry.  Was she worth the wait? Of course she was. Every single month. 

However, we are now thinking about baby number two. This should be easier right? We’ve all heard the stories, “it took me 4 years to fall pregnant with my first but then I was pregnant after the first month of trying with my second”. I thought that was going to happen to me. But no, I was filled with a false hope. I thought it would be easier now that I know I can get pregnant, I’m not infertile. So what’s my problem? Why am I sat here trying not to cry about the fact that it’s 5 months into trying to conceive again and we’re still not pregnant?  I’ve realised that no matter how many babies you have, if your heart wants more and you struggle to get pregnant that feeling of disappointment, stress and heartache stays with you. 
So if you know anyone who is trying to conceive please don’t tell them it will be okay, don’t tell them they need to relax, and don’t tell them they need to stop trying. Just be there for them, listen to them, let them offload. Until you’ve been there you won’t understand how they feel, and that’s fine, but for now they just need someone to talk to, to get it off their chest.  Someone to joke to about it, because if they don’t laugh they really will cry. 
And if you’re trying to conceive then you’re not the only one who has been there. See if you can find someone who has had the same struggles as you, having someone who understands makes a huge difference.  

Everyone falls pregnant under different circumstances. For some the answer really is to stop trying, for others the answer is to try harder.  Unfortunately I believe I fall in to the latter category. When I fell pregnant I was jogging every day, eating healthily, not drinking and cutting out caffeine.  So January is my time to get my body back into tip top shape to carry another baby. I know I can do it, but until then I’ll be here, feeling quietly sorry for myself every month pretending that it doesn’t bother me. 

My Breastfeeding journey

I wanted to share my story of breastfeeding my daughter, because as I joined the club of breastfeeding mothers the only information I’d really had was what I was taught in antenatal classes and read in books. This didn’t fully prepare me for the roller coaster experience I was about to have.

Books, midwives and antenatal classes will offer you a brief account of what it’s like to breastfeed, one with rose tinted glasses. I was told that it wouldn’t really hurt, just “10 seconds of a toe curl” when I first started at each feed and then I’d be fine. My baby would gaze into my eyes as we bond over this special moment that no one else could share, and of course I’d be boosting her immune system to equate that of superman. (He never gets a cold does he?)

Whilst I enjoyed breastfeeding (so much easier to get out the house than faff with bottles and formula, what do I need? The two Bs – baby and boobs) and I was proud that I made it to 10 months with April, the initial journey wasn’t quite as easy as I had hoped.

The first 48 hours.

Let’s start with the initial doubts. When breastfeeding you haven’t got a bloody clue how much milk your baby is getting. You have to hope that it carries on until its little tummy is full and hopefully a few hours will pass until the next feed. I spent the first afternoon and night in hospital constantly asking the midwives to check if she was feeding okay, doubting myself and panicking that this tiny little baby was going to starve. She didn’t.  If this is you, relax. Your baby will cry if it’s hungry, that’s what they’re good at.

Secondly the pain. Okay it wasn’t equivalent to labour but my God having such a sensitive area in almost constant use for the first few days did some damage. Get some Lansinoh cream and apply after EVERY feed! If you want to know what it’s like, imagine the first few seconds like hundreds of little needles stabbing into your nipple, and when that pain is over think of it being rubbed with sandpaper for the duration of the feed.

Two words: nipple shields.  The NHS and midwives frown upon them but without them I would have given up. I used them for the first few seconds of the feed (the most painful part) and then quickly slipped them off. This avoided the concern of “nipple confusion” (a baby wanting a teat like a bottle instead of the real stuff) and the risk of mastitis, potentially caused by the baby not feeding enough because nipple shields make a feed less efficient apparently.

Night 2

Oh night 2…how I remember you! Top tip: get snacks out and movies ready. You won’t sleep tonight. I’m serious.

(If you get to night 2 and this hasn’t happened, expect it on night 3 or 4. It’s the night your milk comes in).

The milk has arrived

Once your baby pulls through your milk you will wake up in the morning with rock hard boobs probably about four cup sizes bigger than pre pregnancy. Think this sounds good? It’s not. It fucking hurts. They leak everywhere. It’s like someone forgot to turn the tap off. Get breast pads stat!

Friends and family

I was always adamant I wouldn’t be one of those people who hides away whilst feeding their baby. Why should I? It’s a natural thing and I feel that one of the reasons the breastfeeding rate is so low in this country is because we don’t see people doing it often enough. You can buy lots of clothes and scarves that will cover you up and once you and baby have the hang of latching on you won’t have to worry about the odd nip slip. It will be second nature and no one sees anything. Promise.

That said, in the early days you end up so obsessed with trying to make your baby latch properly that every Tom, Dick and Harry gets and eyeful of your boobs. Don’t worry. You’ll get over it, as will they.

Most of my friends and family were fine around me feeding. There were the odd few who felt uncomfortable, my 19 year old nephew was adamant he’d seen my boobs and was scarred for life, I know full well he hadn’t. My sister’s husband also took time to get used to it, whilst on holiday with them I had to feed April at the table when he was sitting opposite me, at the first sign of her needing to be fed he would physically turn sideways and lock his eyes on my sister. Luckily this didn’t bother me. I knew he wasn’t being rude, he just didn’t know what else to do.

Feeding in public

In my 10 months of breastfeeding April I never once had anyone come up to me and make a negative comment. If you don’t look out for it and get paranoid that everyone who looks your way is staring at you in shock and disgust then you’ll be fine. Be paranoid and you’ll misinterpret people’s actions.

Distractions

As April got older and more interested in her surroundings feeding became harder. As a newborn they can barely even see your face, let alone look around the room whilst feeding. Once April started to take an interest in everything around her it became harder and harder to feed on the go. I found myself heading to her nursery to feed in quiet so that she wouldn’t whip her head off every 2 minutes to check what was going on! I think this stage required the most patience for me and was the start of our breastfeeding journey coming to an end.

Going back to work

This was the other factor that contributed to me stopping feeding. When April was 10 months old I went back to work four days a week. I worked in central London, this meant 12 hours away from home. I went to work armed with my breast pump and cool bag to pump my missed feeds and store the milk. However pumping is hard work. It’s not as efficient as feeding directly and sometimes you can sit there for 20 minutes to only get 2oz of milk. My manager was incredibly understanding and let me go off to pump as and when I needed to, but I couldn’t shake that nagging feeling that everyone would think I was just skiving off and sitting in the medical room by myself.

Not to mention how boring it was! No mobile phone signal, no one to talk to, just me, my pump and the 4 walls. ZzZzz.

The final goodbye

So after 10 and a half months of breastfeeding we had both come to a natural end. April no longer demanded the feeds she used to have, my supply gradually declined and we made the transition to formula.

I made sure that I knew when our last feed was going to be so I could remember it, and I still do. It wasn’t anything special, just a normal feed time but it gave me closure. 

I won’t lie, I cried the first time we gave her formula. I hated the thought of feeding her something that was designed in a lab somewhere by strangers. Until then she had only ever eaten natural things. This was alien to me and it made me feel incredibly uncomfortable.

Of course I know now that formula wasn’t going to poison her, she didn’t seem to know a difference and it was given to thousands of babies in the UK so who am I to say it’s not good enough for my child? It was probably insecurity more than anything, I hated feeling as though I had been replaced.  She had it for two or three months and then made the transition to cows milk. Now I’ve been replaced by a farm animal instead of a lab – awesome.

Oh and if you get told that formula will help your baby sleep it’s a lie. April’s sleep stayed just as shit on formula as it did on breast milk. It’s a myth. So if/when you make that transition don’t expect a miracle!

The end

As a fairly anxious mother who always panics that she’s not doing the best for her daughter and always questions her parenting it’s safe to say that breastfeeding is one of the things I feel really proud of doing. I stuck with it when I felt like giving up and for the first six months of my daughter’s life outside the womb I was the only thing that kept get growing. That’s a pretty awesome feeling.

Fair-weather friends

When you have a baby the dynamics of your friendships with people can change dramatically. Over the past 13 months I have discovered that my friends fall into three different categories.

Category one

These are the friends that get excited when you’re pregnant, asking you what names you might pick, claiming they can’t wait to meet him/her and they can’t believe you’re about to become a mum. Fast forward to that baby popping out of you and POOF – they’re gone.  You might get a Facebook comment from them when you announce the birth, if you’re lucky you’ll get a text. You’ve hit the jackpot if they send you a card.

They won’t make the journey to come and see your baby, they might be interested if you bring it to them and even then they’re probably just letting you come over so they can ‘tick off’ the baby visit.
You might expect this from casual friends, but unfortunately this has happened to me with what I used to call one of my best friends. I’m not sure why they act this way, maybe the whole baby thing freaks them out, maybe they’re not sure what to talk to me about anymore, I tell myself they’ll catch up one day but I think I just do that to make myself feel better. Realistically I know our friendship has moved on.

Category two

These are the friends that come to visit when the baby is born, bring a card, have a cuddle and see you once or twice a year. They make it to your little one’s christening and birthday party but don’t see you as often as they used to.  It’s not that they don’t want to spend time with you, it’s more that they think that now you have a baby you won’t want to do anything, or you can’t go out.  At least that’s my theory.  They mean well, but again they’re a little bit unsure how to handle friends with babies, they think it’s a lot more restrictive than it really is and they’re not quite ready to adjust to your new life and just come over to sit on the sofa with a cup of tea instead of going out to the pub.

Category three

These are the friends worth their weight in gold. The ones who can’t wait to meet your baby, once they’ve seen them they’re counting down the days until their next visit. The ones who drive over to your house when you have a child because they know your little one can’t stand the car, so they make the journey instead. The ones who still want to go on holiday with you when your baby is six weeks old and potentially up every two hours in the night. The ones who you trust to babysit your newborn whilst they sit in a restaurant at a spa bored to death all day so you can attend your sister’s hen party and still breastfeed every few hours. The ones who love your children almost as much as they love their own. The ones who still remember your child’s middle name. The ones who actually read your boring texts about sleepless nights, non-stop crying and teething. The ones who text you to ask how your baby is because they know she was poorly the day before.  The ones who buy your baby new clothes even though it’s not a special occasion. The ones who forgive you when you’re clumsy with the wording of your silly little blog.

I only have a handful of these friends but they’re all I need. They’re the friends I know I can count on in an emergency, the friends who would do anything for me, and I for them.  The friends who don’t run a mile when you have a baby because they either already understand what it’s like, or they can’t wait to join you on the journey to watch your children grow up.

So if you’re in the same boat as me, don’t be sad about the friends who fall into categories one and two. One day they might come back to you.  Just be glad you have friends that fall into category three, because they’re the ones that matter.