Eating’s (not) Cheating

This week’s post is about our family battle with food. Our internal battles, our external battles and my battle with myself. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic because I find it to be one of the most stressful aspects of parenting. Please do this on Facebook, Twitter (@makinglittleppl) or the comments box below. Let’s talk! Oh and I owe you a thank you. Earlier this week I asked you to like and share my post in a bid to drive up page likes and many of you kindly did. If you can do the same again, I will be eternally grateful! Big love to you all, Mrs Hergerburger xx

Eating’s cheating used to be one of my favourite expressions. Choosing drinking over eating, what’s not to like?! It typically meant I would go out on a Friday night and drink, most often until I was sick. Cheating my body? Nope. My hangover? Definitely not. My waistline? No way, no how. So I’m not sure eating is cheating. Sadly however, I think my toddler has adopted my juvenile mantra. Not to do with alcohol, though you would be forgiven for thinking she was drunk if you heard her rendition of Postman Pat, but with food. I find the eating thing incredibly stressful. I shouldn’t, as it’s so base, but between the mess, the habits and the crap-dodging, it can really monopolise the mind. 

Once you’re over the breast/bottle saga that dominates the first six weeks of your baby’s life, the next stress is when to start giving them real food. We had heard and read so much conflicting advice – friends giving porridge at 6 months, cousins giving curry at 5 months, mums giving egg at 4 months and Nana giving apples at 3 months. Where do you even begin?! We decided we wanted to understand the science and make an informed decision. We looked like neurotic first time parents when we admitted that we attended an NCT ‘Introducing Solids’ workshop, but I’m OK with that. I always use the analogy that I wouldn’t go and see a doctor that hadn’t practised for 20 years, so blindly following the advice of family elders, without understanding the latest science, doesn’t make sense either. Listen, but follow your own path and all that. The workshop was a well-spent couple of hours. As well as learning the actual signs that your baby is ready to wean (sitting up, loss of tongue-thrust reflex and ability to pick up food) the biggest takeaway was the maturity of the digestive system. My (probably dreadful) interpretation of this is that a babies’ gut is open for the first 6 months, to allow antibodies and proteins from breastmilk to pass straight through to the bloodstream. One of the advantages of breast milk is that it lines the gut and helps protect against anything bad. At 6 months, the gut closes so the baby’s body is able to stop harmful things passing through on its own. This became one of my milestones for breast feeding, I felt better about my decision to stop once 6 months had passed. This article on KellyMom, an absolute favourite website of mine, explains it much better than I do. The other thing we learnt was that nothing will fill your baby up like calorie-dense breast milk or formula. So if your baby is waking up hungry, give them more milk, don’t think that a barely mangled bit of banana is going to fix the problem. It made sense to us. Husband and I walked out of the standard slightly-damp-smelling-rough-carpeted venue much better informed than we went in. I’ll certainly never buy a box of Farley’s Rusks (shock horror to anyone over 30!) due to the shocking amount of sugar and salt in them. And actually, even many of the baby jars and snacks are bad habits waiting to happen. I’m surprised it’s not legislated more heavily. We started feeding Girly no1 at 6 months as per the advice from NCT, the World Health Organisation, NHS, UNICEF and EOAB (Every Other Acronym Body – totally a real thing) and will do the same for Girly no2 in a couple of weeks time. But this time around I’m going to charge a pound for every person that looks at me like I’m a child beater when I tell them we’re waiting until 6 months. I might be able to afford a new sofa!  

After the ‘when’ to feed, we tackled the ‘what’. From day one we combined baby-led weaning with spoon feeding. We started Girly no1 on pieces of fruit and steamed veg, never bothering with baby porridge and I didn’t purée anything myself. There were times, I admit – shaking my head in shame – that we used pre-prepared meals. Ella’s Kitchen and later HIPP Organic meals were great and have little-to-no additives, and I eventually shook off the guilt of using these when I saw the variety of flavours, and frankly how much easier they made my life. We came to think of Ella as our family chef. Once Girly no1 was older and better with lumps, we made big batches of spag bol, sausage casserole or shepherds pie, all crammed with veg. But all that was back when she ate anything I gave her. When I worried about her being a Waitrose kid asking for salmon with asparagus spears, or beef bourgignon with a side of lightly peppered butternut squash. Six months ago everything changed as she discovered a new superpower. The ‘yellow food group’ power, designed to make Mummy twitch and growl. Girly no1, at two and a half, randomly decided she would only eat yellow foods – cheese, brioche, yoghurt, banana and cereal. It was, and is, incredibly frustrating. The Heath Visitor told me not to worry. She said to think about food over the week rather than the day. I did this….yep, still yellow. There is one exception, she will always eat spaghetti bolognese. Fish fingers have recently been added to this list, though arguably these belong in the yellow food group. I don’t know whether this is me doing something wrong or it’s just a phase. It had become a power struggle and, quite literally, wasn’t healthy for any of us. I read an article that suggested presenting the whole meal (including any dessert) on the table at the same time and letting your child pick what they want. It said to stop thinking about our concepts of sweet and savoury as they just aren’t embedded in children of that age. The idea is that the child can choose what they eat and this freedom of choice leads to them eating more (buffet mentality!). I thought this would mean that she would turn into a Petit Filous, but surprisingly, she hasn’t. She has started eating peas again, and is gradually trying new things. The other day at a friend’s house she ate raw carrot, hummus and cucumber. I choked on my own raw carrot, cucumber and hummus. At our house she would shake and shudder at the very mention. It isn’t always practical to serve lots of dishes, particularly as we eat at different times, but I try and make sure that we eat as a family a couple of times a week and she is offered everything on the table. When she eats on her own, I give her a plate with everything on it – fish fingers, peas, fruit and yoghurt. Power struggle averted. 

My biggest food nemesis is other people (blame everyone else, why not?!). We read and heard a lot about the impact of too much sugar and salt on babies and children’s bodies and vowed to do everything we could to keep these out of their diets. Excessive salt is so harmful to babies’ kidneys and like most things, if you never get a taste for it you never crave it, heroin being a great equivalent example. My mum never added salt to any of her cooking, so I don’t either. In fact I hate salty things. As long as we do the cooking, this one is fairly easy to dodge. Sugar, however, is an entirely different matter. Both Husband and I have a ridiculously sweet tooth and eat biscuits like there is a world shortage. I crave sugar at two or three points in my day. I would be one skinny Minnie if I didn’t eat sugar as I do. I tried to give up in January – I lasted 5 days. Now I’m even worse than when I started. I didn’t, and still don’t, want my Girlies wrestling sugar cravings for the rest of their lives. And I definitely don’t want them to be another obesity statistic – sugar is an absolute and proven driver of this problem. I read that if children can avoid refined sugars for the first three years of life, they won’t have a sweet tooth. It will be sickly to them. We almost completely dodged it for the first year but the second and third year have been so much harder as every mofo wants to ply our baby with sugar. We went to a children’s gym class the other day that gave out lollipops at the end! I love a Chuppa Chups as much as the next guy but for a two year old. Really?! One of the most frequent battles is with grandparents, who seem to think their mission in life is to fill your child with biscuits, sweets and ice cream. It’s a topic that drives me nuts. I want to ask why they want to push my daughter towards a lifelong fight with her health that she could well avoid. It’s not just grandparents though. Knowing what we know now, why do any of us give our children anything sugary? If we all nipped it in the bud now then diabetes, obesity and tooth decay wouldn’t be issues in the future. We give it to them because we like it…but we don’t give them prosecco and fags, we’d be locked up for it! Before you all hit the X in the corner and accuse me of being a ranting hippy, I should state that I’m no angel. I eat biscuits in front of Girly no1 and occasionally let her have a bit. We let her have a little ice cream in the summer. And at Easter, she had a bit of a tiny Milky Bar egg. This approach, though, is not much better than giving it to her always because with this we’re making it a special treat. All the more tempting! It’s quite the conundrum, and I don’t know the right answer. I’ve told a few people that she had no chocolate at Easter and the reactions are akin to me telling them I locked her in an under-the-stairs cupboard for the weekend. I feel strongly on the topic though, like most things this is about setting them up for the future. Both of my girls are already bloody heavy and would struggle to hit the upper end of “ideal” on the BMI scale. You know those hessian sack door stops that look like they are light but you break your back picking them up? That’s me and my girls. The three of us are lead-lined. The 8 stone scale reading will whizz by at age 10. I ditched weight-watching years ago but since having babies I’ve started back on the scales. It never used to matter because I was athletic and fit. The only time it bothered me was when my Mum gasped when I told her how much I weighed. I suppose 12 stone is shocking to someone who weighed 8.5 stone and had a 22 inch waist when she got married. Now, though, I’m not fit or athletic, I’m fat and squidgy. 5 months after giving birth I weigh way more than my “slim” weight of 12 stone. Once I’m feeling myself again I’ll get my focus on the things that matter to me and that I want to matter to my Girlies – health, strength and feeling good about the woman staring back at you in the mirror.

So the whole food thing stresses me out, for me and for them. I don’t know the answer. I’m cowardly in some ways because I’m not willing to be the big bad wolf. When all the other kids are eating crap, I give it to my child too, peer pressure at its’ finest. When someone overweight feeds my child biscuits, and I want to say “why do you want her to be fat too?”, I don’t. Because I do it too. What I do know is that as we embark on the whole food journey again with Girly no2, I’ll do most things the same, but hopefully with less sugar. For everyone. Maybe as a family we’ll even go sugar free and I’ll find the confidence to say no to more. First though, I’m going to eat the rest of that Milky Bar egg…

EATINGS (NOT) CHEATING #toddlerfood #food #yellowfood
Mix it up

That’s a Bit Weird

Last weekend we went to London. We saw these beautiful giant tortoises at London Zoo. Near the enclosure was a shell that you could climb into and pretend to be a tortoise. Sister-Auntie duly climbed in and committed to the role with a wide mouth and big eyes. Us grown ups were rolling around laughing. Girly no1, now two and a half, was not. She stood and watched her Auntie with a very serious look on her face. Then said “Auntie, what are you doing? Get up!”  I laughed so hard a little bit of wee came out. Oh my serious little girl (and the gift of childbirth). 

I knew very early on that Girly no1 had that serious streak, as I have it myself. Personality wise, she’s very similar to me. It’s a very strange thing having your quirks reflected back at you in a small person, you see them how other people see them. It can be disconcerting at times, but hugely reassuring in others. You learn that others can adore your weirdness. Laughter can be fond. And when you don’t react exactly as people expect, it’s other people’s’ discomfort that makes things awkward, not you. Since she was a baby, we have really had to work hard for smiles and laughs. I never minded, I found it quite endearing, but other people would become almost embarrassed that their last 5 minutes of pulling stupid faces and making weird noises failed to make “this funny little soul” smile. She would look at them with the most deadpan face. It was hilarious! A laugh from her was nigh on impossible, unless you were Husband or I. I once let on what I had done to make her laugh for the first time. For the next two months whenever she was left alone with one of her Nana’s or her Auntie, I could hear them singing the magic song (not Sir Mix a Lot in case you’re wondering) and assuming “the position” on the floor. The Nana’s were always caught out by their dodgy knees – can’t move so quickly in your fifties! Consequently the trick lost its’ charm and I had to find a new one. When I found one I didn’t tell anyone else, if I had to spend all day with the smaller, angrier me then I deserved the laughs. To this day she’ll only really laugh with her inner circle. She’s the ice princess to my Ice Queen! Reassuringly, Girly no2 is a different story – I can make a giggly baby and am not inflicting just my seriousness on the world. At 5 months old you only have to look at her to make her laugh. She laughs when she sneezes. She laughs if you wobble your head from side to side. She coos and gurgles and blows raspberries. She permanently has a smile on her face. It’s lovely! Different lovely. The ones that remember no1’s seriousness approach with trepidation, and are delighted to be met with smiles. Their needs met, they’re not left feeling silly and are therefore much happier. 

Girly no1 has also inherited some of my other “quirks”. My morning grumpiness is renowned amongst my friends, family and colleagues. My diary at work was generally kept free until 11am. My family didn’t speak to me before midday for all of my teenage years. My friends bring food and tea if they have to talk to me before lunch. Girly no1 is the same. Woe betide the fool that wakes her from a nap. I would recommend you go stick your head in a croc’s open mouth first. Or at least change pooey nappies and whatever else needs doing before you absolutely have to wake her. I’m just about there on a new technique for waking Girly no1 but human trials are not yet complete, and it needs tweaking before we’ll get approval. Her sense of humour is different to other toddlers. I’ve lost count of the number of times an adult has tried to make her laugh and she has blank-faced them. I find it hilarious, partly because of said adult’s slightly huffy and embarrassed face, but also because I often find myself in a room full of laughing people not getting the joke. Correction – I do get it, I just don’t find it funny. I always notice at comedy shows that I laugh at different times to everyone else…the only other person laughing is Husband, though more often than not at me. I’d love nothing more than to find the whole world funny, I feel like life would be so much sunnier. But I’m more like the English weather, not a completely miserable fucker but not always sunny either. I find specific people funny, like Girly no1 does. Sister and Husband can make me laugh so hard my cheeks hurt. And I have a small handful of friends who do the same – Northerner, Jet Set, Princess Jasmine to name a couple – though even then my mood that day can determine whether I laugh and smile or am focused and serious. I want to make sure Girly no1 grows up feeling OK with this aspect of herself. It’s taken me a long time and great periods of self-doubt to reach this feeling, something that I really would like her to avoid. Girly no1 gets angry if she can’t do something, too. Flying jigsaw pieces are the norm in our house. Our neighbours probably hear “we don’t get cross, we just take our time” in their sleep. She has also inherited my ‘did-something-die-in-there?’ morning breath, but less said about that the better. 

I have made my first born sound like a complete weirdo, she’s not. She’s a loving little girl who, a lot of the time, is just busy being two. She has inherited some positive traits from me; I praise her because I want her to be proud of her amazing determination; her incredible empathy; and her drive to master all things. I tell her she’s amazing and funny and loving, because they’re the things she’ll think she’s not if she starts to believe the serious ice-queen references that will be thrown her way in the years to come. 

I often wonder at what point we drift into narcissism and whether our reason for producing is that we’re all so fascinated by ourselves that we try and make replicas…I’ll stop there as I’m sure someone more qualified than me has written on the subject and I’m certainly no philosopher! Having this particular little person like me, means learning to love all of myself – and Husband, she’s not all me. That frown is definitely his. In her inevitable periods of self doubt in the future, I’ll tell her that people just need to get to know her. There is nothing wrong with only giving away the fun, giggly side of yourself to the ones you love the most. Just ask Husband and Auntie!

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#AUNTIETORTOISEANDMYSERIOUSGIRL #THATSABITWEIRD
Auntie Tortoise and my serious Girly no1

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

 

The Gender Agenda

In the last few months, Girly no1 (age 2 and a half) has started to talk about boys and girls and he’s and she’s. It’s a very confusing time and I’m not sure she’s grasped it yet. She knows Daddy is a boy and Mummy is a girl, but she also thinks Auntie is a boy. I suppose she can be a bit boy-ish….if there’s such a thing. We’ll get there. Understanding the concept of boys and girls is one of those things we all learn as children, and important to understand biologically and grammatically. Socially however, the gender concept is one that is increasingly fluid. And in the same way race was tackled when we were children, I suspect gender is next to be tackled with our offspring. 

We were reading Biff, Chip and Kipper Go for Haircuts the other day. You remember them – the ones that do very mundane activities and make them last ten pages during which time your mind starts to drift. “I wonder whether your eyebrows would get caught in your pubic hair if the eyebrow hairs carried on growing and never fell out? How different would the air smell if we all breathed out a little bit of burp with every breath all the time? Focus Mummy!” It’s not immediately obvious in those books who is a boy and who is a girl as they’re all named after dogs. No1 was asking who each one was and I found it really hard to identify which was a boy and which was a girl without resorting to stereotypes like hair length, outfits or make up. The only other thing I could think of was going back to biology, but it didn’t seem an appropriate time to talk about willies and vajayjays. I am very conscious though that stereotypes driving the girlies’ self-concept and their view of others are formed at this age, so while we’re trying not to drive the boy-girl thing too hard, it’s very difficult to distinguish between man and woman without using some more traditional references. 

We ways hoped that we could bring the girlies up to be as gender neutral as is realistic in our life, releasing them from stereotypes we have felt constrained by and making sure they are understanding of others’ choices. If Grandad, the 6ft 4 house-building rugby player ever decides to arrive at our house in a dress, I would like it if they said “you look nice Grandad”. Equally if one of them wants to be an international cricket player, I would like it if they had the same visibility, standing and earning prospects as the men’s team. Sadly these are unlikely scenarios, maybe not in Grandads case, who knows, but I would like them to believe in todays gender spectrum rather than the binary view of the 1950’s. And as stereotypes are embedded from an early age, I want to tackle it from day one. Day to day it’s fairly straightforward. I change up pretty with handsome. I like to think that you wouldn’t be able to tell whether our playroom has a male or female inhabitant. I dress both girls in lots of navy and green; there is pink but it’s not the dominant wardrobe colour. In fact I dressed Girly no1 in so much navy when she was little she was often mistaken for a boy. I would tell people “Mark is 3 months, and yes a very bonny lad, thank you”. It was often easier than embarrassing them by throwing their assumptions back in their face. What we didn’t account for though, was other people’s contributions. We didn’t expressly state no pink, no dolls and no fairy princesses to everyone around us. And consequently have been bombarded with all of them! Girly no1 has 5 dolls already and all the accessories (including a bath with an operating shower!). She has fairy princesses coming out of her ears. She has books that glitter and sparkle. And an illuminous pink trampoline! I need to pause here and say the girls are not quite as spoiled brats as they sound. Husband and I both have divorced parents so she has four sets of Grandparents – as opposed to two – who don’t listen; as is a grandparents’ prerogative I guess! They are very lucky girls. I’m aware of sounding like a horribly ungrateful wench here, which I’m not. I just don’t want my daughters growing up to be Miss Piggy. We discretely combat the fluff and glitter in the best way we can. For everything traditionally girly, she had something traditionally boyie, if that’s the vernacular we’re using. For Christmas, she got a kitchen and a workbench (£30 from IKEA and second hand for £15 – FYI!). She has a fairy outfit and a Scooby Doo costume. A pram and a car mat. I am all the more committed to this balance since speaking to a Teacher friend the other day who reinforced our thinking and confirmed that the toys we play with as children influence our future choices. The reason there are so many male engineers? Because boys play with Lego and Mechano. Female nurses? Girls play with dollies. I’m grossly over-simplifying, but this has been proven time and time again and I don’t want my daughters’ future considerations to be limited because they only played with toasters, hoovers and ironing boards. I want them to build skyscrapers, be the future master of micro biology or uncover the history of dinosaurs, if that’s what they want to do. 

What we didn’t account for, however, was personal choice. And I’m pretty amazed at this. We bought our house and moved in just two weeks before Girly no2 was due and we wanted to make sure no1’s bedroom was perfect, so she had a little haven to run to when the baby crying got too much. That and somewhere she was happy to sleep so we didn’t end up with two crying children in our bedroom. I dutifully produced the Dulux colour chart offering every colour in the rainbow and asked her to pick some she liked. Her top three were Fondant Fancy, Waterlily Blush and Russian Velvet. Gleaming bright shades of pink! I did my best to push some other colours but it wasn’t happening. Much as it hurt, we had to stick by our offering and so gave her one pink bedroom wall. She’s naturally drawn to long hair, pink lips and glittery nails. She loves the Little Mermaid and Frozen. Ana, Elsa and that goofy snowman have hit our house as much as the next family. She’ll always opt for a bright pink dress over denim dungarees. I’m baffled! With all of our anti-pink efforts, it’s so unexpected. I’m not the girliest of girls. I do my hair, wear a bit of make up and am interested in, but not ruled by, fashion. I’m definitely not little-dogs-in-handbags, all-day-shopping and hair extensions girly. In fact Sister calls me a Hair Dyslexic. It makes me wonder how much of this whole gender identity is natural inclination. 

#boyorgirl #parenting #pblogger #mblogger #baby #mother
Boy or girl?

Despite our best efforts, some traditional views have snuck through too. Yesterday, we drove up to London to visit Sister. As traffic slowed to 5mph I announced our arrival in London. Girly no1 shouted in glee “Daddy’s office! Yaaay! See Daddy!” Well, that was after she argued with me that we weren’t in London because we weren’t in an office. Obviously the diverse range of people, tall buildings and ludicrous number of bikes was not how she pictured our great capital. As she nattered away (constantly for the hour and 40 minutes it took for us to drive into East London), she told me when she’s bigger, she will work in an office on the computer. I told her she could fly to the moon; be a doctor and look after people; tend to lions if she wanted; she could be anything she liked. She said yes. Then “when Mummy is bigger, Mummy can be home with the kids”. I was so appalled I nearly knocked a Lycra-clad-skinny-legged bearded man off of his bike. I have no idea where this came from. It hit me in my deepest core. Besides the fact I have some weird thing about use of the term “the kids” (I just hate it, I don’t know why, I just find it derogatory), I’ve worked since I was 16 and have a very successful career. So I wonder who has been telling her that I’m staying at home with these “kids” and is that all she thinks of me? I accept that she is only two and a half and cannot remember 6 months ago when I was working 4 days a week, but I don’t think I am OK with her only ambition for me as “being home with the kids”. As usual this is not a slur on anyone else’s choices, it’s just not reflective of who I am. I have taken time off to be with her and her sister but I want her to aspire to be like Mummy because she is independent, confident, earns her own money, and gave her and her sister a happy life, not because she stayed home with the kids. I took solace in the fact she still had ambition and wanted to be like Daddy and resisted the urge to try and explain work and maternity leave. But what it did remind me of was the importance of me being a strong female role model and figuring out the best way to do it. Particularly as I’m not currently working and am at home with the kids!

In the end, I’ve decided she’s probably a little young to talk to about gender specifically. At the age of two, there isn’t really a difference between sex and gender but when we get to a point when there is, we’ll tackle it then. We can talk boy and girl, but we’ll do it in loose terms without restriction and minimise the stereotypes as best we can. How we react in situations when the topic of gender arises is also important. The next time we’re in Clapham and the crazy man in a dress donning a red handbag and cowboy boots cycles by, we won’t point or laugh, we’ll just nod and let her ask questions. And when she asks, I’ll do what I do at work and ask her “what do you think? Why?” and hope her views are more like mine than my Nana’s. 

In researching this I came across this tip sheet that I thought was quite interesting and worth a read in case anyone is encountering the same conundrums.  

#thebeardedbaby #baby #parenting #mumblog #mblogger
The bearded baby

Seven Mumly Sins

Happy Mothers Day peeps! Hope you have had a lovely day whatever you have been doing. I have. I’ve spent it with my two Girlies and my own lovely Mum, who was my guest editor (and found twice as many typos as normal, thanks Mum!). Have a read, please share, like or comment. All tips on head protection welcome!

I was a terrible mother yesterday. I sinned repeatedly. I think I hit all seven sins. Girly no1 bashed her head 4 times. It was a disaster. 

The first incident was when she bumped heads with another little girl on a bouncy castle. I was feeding Girly no2 just out of sight of where it happened. They both came off clutching their tiny blonde heads with tears streaming down their faces. The other girl, who had a quiet dainty cry, ran straight into the arms of her identical mother who was already holding her arms out in a “darling, darling, darling” way. She looked at my poor little Girly, who was standing there on her own looking around for me with a big square mouth and an air raid siren cry, and started saying “where’s your Mummy” in an overly exaggerated-head-shaking-judgy-you-poor-neglected-child-kind-of-way. I ran over to her doubled-over, spraying breast milk all over the place and flashing my nipple repeatedly to the only two Dads in the room. As I got there I grabbed her with my free arm suffocating no2, who was then sick all over my bunched up top. The other mum didn’t appreciate my “well this is what happens when we put people that can’t walk on an inflatable floor and expect them to stay upright!” joke and glared at me accusingly. I guiltily held on to Girly no1 cuddling her but simultaneously trying to dust her off and send her on her way, knowing full well that she would again, 2 minutes later, completely ignore my warning to stay off the bouncy castle until I had finished feeding no2 and probably bang her head again. She stopped crying, nodded “yes Mummy” and ran off. She went down the slide twice and then, whilst I was trying to stop my nipple being pulled on like Stretch Armstrong, ran straight back on to the bouncy castle. We’re working on our listening. I asked my friend to watch her for a few minutes. Two minutes passed before she again came off with the mouth and the noise. This time she had fallen straight off the main part of the castle, landing on her face. I was feeling a little (!) stressed and, if I’m honest, angry. Who ever thought it was a good idea to throw a bunch of toddlers onto a hugely exciting, colourful fun box with a wobbly floor? They can’t walk on a hard floor and have no spatial awareness whatsoever. At least 17 times a day my toddler walks into the back of my legs, or the car door, or the glass door or the sofa or whatever else is right in front of her. But even if you wanted to, you can’t stop children going on a bouncy castle. They’re the most fun thing ever! I rented one a few years ago for my husband’s 30th – they’re great! But I was feeling little other than Wrath at the stupidity of everyone, ever, who had anything to do with making or providing bouncy castles for children. Hours later we were at a friends’ house and she fell of a chair onto a slate floor. More square mouth. More sirens. It took copious amounts of witch hazel, 4 episodes of Peppa and lots of cuddles from Mummy to calm down this time. Either I was suddenly a very neglectful mother (feel free to notify social services or send me a roll of bubble wrap) or we were just having a bad day. Girly no2 was at the time in her bouncy chair laughing at a wooden door. I was looking at her and trying to make myself feel better by thinking at least I hadn’t dropped her. She was all in one piece so maybe it wasn’t my fault. Keeping a 4-month old baby safe is pretty easy in comparison though because they don’t move. That said, she’s a sitting target for Girly no1’s lumbering body. I’m convinced that the reason no2’s head is so big and hard (it’s like a watermelon) is natures’ way of protecting her from her big sister. I looked at her thinking that I don’t want her to be able to move. I know it’s only a matter of time until she’ll be running around after Girly no2, I can’t bear it. For now I just have to enjoy her perfect bruise-free head while I can, being gluttonous over those infectious little smiles and laughs at inanimate wooden objects. 

Shortly afterwards I took Girly no1 up to have a bath with her little friend with almost the same name, we’ll call her Gorly, after which she had her final knock of the day. She fell off the bed onto her cup of milk. Again, with her head. She was distraught. I felt horrible knowing that she would be covered in bruises the next day. I watched Gorly with Envy as she climbed up on to the bed and elegantly slid back down to the ground. When would mine do that?! I put my poor battered child to bed and we turned to the only other friend you need in this situation….prosecco. Gorly’s mum and I chatted Lusting over the days when we could have chugged a couple of bottles then headed to the pub. Days when neither of us had that weight of responsibility for keeping little bodies safe from air filled castles and In The Night Garden cups. We greedily devoured our bubbles and some food pontificating over what we could have done better. Well, briefly. Then we moved on to all the places we’ll travel to when the Girls grow up and leave home. 

She’s woken up this morning covered in bruises. I feel horrible. I can’t look at her, I just keep cuddling her and kissing her head, getting her cobweb hair stuck between my teeth. We went for a lovely walk earlier and as she tripped through the fields and stumbled into puddles, I clutched her hand. The problem is that she just isn’t very physical yet, by which I mean that her gross motor skills aren’t quite as developed as some others her age. She didn’t crawl until her first birthday and she walked at 18 months. She was a bit Sloth-like! Whilst I had a nice relaxing first year, I pay for it now as she flies around after other children, often not able to keep up and so tripping over all the time. I’m fighting the need to add a Mum caveat here about her vocabulary or other skills – bullshit bullshit bullshit – but I’m not going to. Children do different things at different times. I accept that. My one is falling over a lot at the minute. Hashtag fact. I do have a theory that every time they go through a growth spurt, they are super clumsy for a few weeks while they grow into their new bodies. It’s like when you wear a pair of shoes that are too big and you trip up the stairs (that might just be me). We are just in the middle of one of those phases!

The best thing about Making Little People is the overwhelming Pride you experience all the time. I burst with it every day, even if they are a bit slow to run or they are caught laughing at doors. I sometimes think I might explode. In fact, I hold this emotion entirely responsible for the Mum rows and bitching we all experience. Fundamentally we just want to do a good job and we do what we believe to be right for our children. Watching them hurt themselves is one of the worst parts of the job but we do our best. We’ll all hit a few of the Seven Deadly Sins along the way, but that’s ok. That’s growing up. I survived didn’t I Mum?!

#SevenDeadlySins #SevenMumlySins #mum #mother #mblogger #pblogger #baby #parenting
Envy

BFF Baby!

There is no greater leveller than having children. Previously awkward situations where me and an equally awkward individual, with whom I have absolutely nothing in common with, are rescued with the topic of offspring. Instead of letting them think I have a leaky bladder and have to pee every 15 minutes, I can finally start a conversation that might not run out after three exchanges and an exasperated nod. Not only that but I can get stuck into all the important issues – poo consistency, developmental milestones, the impact of the chavvy kid at school (assuming they’re not the parent of said chav, if you don’t know who the chavvy kid is then this just got awkward….). The conversation is still likely to be superficial though, as we have our Mother image we present to strangers and then our actual Mum style – the one that only your friends see. 

My friends see and hear the truth. They are the ones I can break down to and cry over whatever has happened. The fact my baby has poo’d over my favourite cashmere jumper; or my toddler prefers Husband to me and asks for him when she cries; or that I locked my baby in the car with my car keys and it took me a full ten minutes to stop running backwards and forwards alongside the car hoping it would miraculously open itself (it did not). The friends I can tell these embarrassing stories to are the ones that really matter to me and I just couldn’t be without. People think it’s mental that Husband and I drove 50 miles out of South London to attend NCT pre-natal classes in the town we would be living in when we had our baby. In fact I drove because Husband didn’t have his driving license at this point. 100 miles (there and back) 5 or 6 times, often late at night, at 7 months pregnant. I questioned our sanity at the time but now I know I did the right thing. It cost me two speeding tickets, 3 points and hundreds of pounds in fines and insurance but you were worth it, buddies! 

I don’t know if anyone can prepare you for the helplessness that comes with those first few months of a baby. In particular the weeks after Husband had gone back to work and I was left with an angry, screaming spider monkey that made me cry all the time. This was the time when I needed good friends who really understood what I was going through. I needed someone in the same boat as me, it was the only real pacifier, the only thing that convinced me I wasn’t such a bad mother that my child was about to be taken away by social services. I needed friends that were also two hours late to every appointment because the baby poo’d, then was sick, then was hungry again and fed for an hour. I needed friends to drag me out for a walk because I had spiralled into a Kardashians black hole for 3 days on the bounce. I needed friends with which to drink copious amounts of tea and eat kilos of cake, the whole time complaining that we shouldn’t be and asking how we would ever get our pre-baby bodies back. Friends with which to drown in prosecco when we finally went out, cheers-ing each other on what a great job we’re doing keeping these little people alive. Actually, I was just another new mum with the same doubts and the same problems as millions of women before me, but being with people in the same boat to be remind me of that was vital. My friends have been my saviours. The number of times we have arrived on each others’ doorsteps in tears. It happened two weeks ago after Girly no2 cried almost non-stop for 48 hours apart from the odd 40-minute nap – my friends listened to me moan endlessly and pontificated with me over what might be the cause. One of them took Girly no1 to the park while the other held Girly no2, getting her off to sleep for three hours. They did this because they have been there very recently and they know how much it hurts when you’re in the thick of it. When someone isn’t in it, I think it’s easy to forget just how stressful it is at the time and they can be too practical. Your friends-in-the-same-boat know, and they understand. It’s not just the bad things, it’s the little tips and techniques too. How to massage teething gums; how much time to play with your little ones versus letting them get on with it; the exact angle to shoot calpol into your little one’s mouth to stop them spitting it back in your eye. It’s so important to have someone to compare notes with and make sure you’re not ruining your children’s chances at becoming the next Bill Gates. Or a nun. Or whatever they want to be. They’re the ones to drop a fresh bottle of calpol round when you’re all ill. Or to bring you lavender oil for your bath to help heal after childbirth. Or to lend you the toy bar for your baby Bjorn bouncy seat. Or to recommend the least offensive soft play places. How to handle your child biting someone at a playgroup. The list is endless!

If you’re to narrow it down, as a minimum I think these are the friends you need:

  • One who has done it all before – Cuzzie has 6 children and there’s nothing she hasn’t seen. From eczema behind their ears through to phlegm in their nappy, chances are one of hers has been through it and it’s nothing to worry about. 
  • One who has a medical background – the Paramedic is normally my first consult before a GP or health visitor. She diagnosed bronchiolitis in Girly no2 using just her ears – telling us what signs to look out for and when. She will happily look at any rash picture I send her telling me not to worry or to get to the doctors now!
  • One who has a child exactly like yours – really useful for checking you’re not missing anything. How are we going to tackle this (lack of) sleeping through the night? How did you make it through that 5-hour flight? Can yours unwrap a babybel on her own yet?!
  • One who has it much worse than you – you feel bad around this one because your baby is an angel in comparison but not only does this serve to convince you you’re doing some things right, you then have a new found love for your child. How could I ever have thought you were a bad baby?!
  • One who has done it a few months before you and remembers everything – oh yes, use this for teething. Put this in the bath. Don’t forget to chase the health visitor for that check. 
  • One who does it a few months after you – this makes you feel learned so that you can impart wisdom, crucial to the build up of your mum-esteem.
  • One who does everything completely different to you – “You did what with your breast milk?! And served it at your fire worship festival? Wow!” less of a friend, more one to challenge your thinking. And when all else fails, one for you to laugh about with your normal friends. 

I am lucky enough to have all of these, and I hope they each recognise themselves as being my very dear friends. The past 3 years would have gone very differently without them and I am thankful for every conversation, smile, tear and hug. If being a mum has taught me anything, it’s that we’re all the same when you strip us down and hand us a baby. All we want is for our babies to be well and turn out to be the best they can be. It’s scary and incredible and you need all the non-judgemental support you can get. 

#friends #bffs #prosecco #parenting #mum #baby
BFFs

The Square Root of Bugger All

This week’s blog is about achievement and how different that feels in normal life versus mum life. I am immensely proud of my Girlies but changing a million nappies just isn’t the same as doing million pound deals. As always I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you enjoy the read, I would appreciate your shares and likes. Oh, don’t forget it’s Mothers Day in two weeks, check out my ludicrously self-indulgent list here for ideas and hints!

Husband came home yesterday and innocently asked “What did you do today baby?”. I nearly bit him. Not because he said it with malice or judgement, but because I had achieved nothing. Bugger all. I did a lot, but I achieved nothing. I didn’t want the answer to be “well I did two washloads, 2 and a half if you count the clean stuff I put away, I emptied the dishwasher, kept the babies alive, everyone was fed and watered. Oh and guess what? I bought some milk. What a hero!” Even thinking it makes me want to gouge my eyeballs out. I’m a career girl, an achiever. My career coach once called me a badge collector. Yep, I used to have a career coach. The only coach I see these days is the driving-past-kind and even then we call it a bus because I don’t know how to articulate the difference between a bus and a coach to a 2-year old. 

The first 3 months after Girly no1 was born were an absolute whirlwind. Or a snowstorm. It was like I had been hit by a bus then driven over a few times. Getting out of bed, drying my hair and putting a coat of mascara and lip balm on felt like a genuine achievement. Making it to an appointment on time was like winning a BAFTA. I remember the midwife asking me what time I would like my goodbye appointment (technical name I’m sure) and offering 8 or 9am. My jaw dropped and I stumbled over my words. As if I could get out of the house with a dry and full baby at that time of day! “What do you have after 11?” I mumbled. My days were one mass of feeding and changing nappies and clothes that left no time for anything else. Husband picked up washing, tidying and cooking while I lurched from one sofa to the other looking like Worzel Gummidge and wearing eau de puke. My achievements were measured in the number of minutes my head could be in contact with my pillow and whether my baby and I managed to get any milk into her mouth via my Spacehopper boob that day. Eventually, around the four month mark, the fog, wind and snow started to clear and I settled into a new rhythm with my new baby. I was quite heavy on routine so predictable naps gave me time to get things done. Once I finished the True Blood box set and she started sleeping through, I started to do some things. Initially I was over-ambitious booking in two friends a day as well as trying to keep on top of the house. But after burnt dinners, smelly washloads and my persistent lateness for everything, I calmed it down. I made a deal with myself to use one of the naps to do something I wanted to do (like teaching myself how to do winged eyeliner – badly!) and the other one I would do something housey. I learnt to be proud if I did a washload or made dinner, and if I made one social thing or an appointment on time. I finally felt some sense of achievement, like I was re-gaining some control. By the fifth or sixth month, I was used to my new life. Then the niggle set in. I felt like I wasn’t really achieving anything, I was just going through the motions each day. But I went back to work and after a few months of figuring it all out, I was once again satisfied that I was moving forward. After briefly tipping over to the doing-too-much end again, I worked out the balance and really started to enjoy both parts of my life. 

#WorzelGummidge #newmum #mother #mblogger #pblogger #mum #parent #twobabies
My Worzel Gummidge Phase

This time around, with Girly no2, I have taken a year off. I’m in the sixth month off work and ‘the niggle’ has kicked in. I am acutely aware of the transition from running multi-million pound businesses to bouncing two soggy small people on my knees, the biggest challenge now being bouncing one child so vigorously that she is thrown to the floor in a heap of giggles whilst the other is bounced enough to keep her quiet but not so much so that her head falls off. There is no getting away from the fact that this time last year, I won £30 million pound contract; today I went to a soft play for 90 minutes with a slight hangover and I didn’t kill anyone. This time last year I successfully coached someone into a senior manager role; this week I taught my baby to growl like the kid in the Exorcist. The achievements are incomparable! I am not saying that their achievements are nonsense, they are things that make my heart burst. It is almost impossible to put into words the glory and elation that comes from watching your little person sing a whole song from beginning to end. Or the first time they tell you (the truth) about their day and who knocked over their tower (who is this Amy character?!). Or when they finish a jigsaw puzzle that you previously had to help them with. It’s not the same as your personal achievements because these ones are wrapped in pride and a love that you don’t get from anything else. It makes your chest ache. It makes you smile uncontrollably, those ones that creep up through your jaw. But, and there is a but, it’s not the same as achieving things for yourself. And I need that. 

This time, I am handling my niggle differently. I opted to take 12 months off so that I could be with Girly no2 and Girly no1, they’re both so young and they need their Mummy. A lot! I am sometimes keeping on top of the house, and sometimes achieving something for myself (this blog!) but I am very conscious of the Girlies not just being on a list of things to check off. When I’ve stopped breast feeding I will take an afternoon to work on my own things while Husband has the girls, I’ll continue learning to code, maybe even write a book! The rest of the time though, I will be with them, play with them and I will indulge in their achievements. There will be time in the future for me to continue to satisfy my needs. 12 months is a really short time and we all know how quickly it goes by. So the next time Husband asks “what did you do today?” Instead of biting him, I will tell the truth with pride. I did bugger all, Husband. Bugger all. 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

The Warthog at the End of the Bed

This Sundays blog is about sleeping. Less of the how because if I knew how to make a baby sleep I would be a multi-millionaire dictating this to my second assistant whilst the first one poured me prosecco and cut my avocado into perfect 1cm cubes. It’s more about the where. As with my previous post on feeding, what you do is down to you. I really hope for your sake that your baby sleeps but I don’t care where. If you enjoy the read then please share. Hey that rhymed!

I’m putting it out there. My poor little glow bug was moved into her own room at 8 weeks old. Not because I’m cold and heartless but because babies are bloody noisy and if I’d wanted to share my nest with a warthog I would work in a zoo. I didn’t tell many people she had been evicted. Like breastfeeding, it’s a sticky subject. There’s a tonne of information supporting all options and people are incredibly sensitive about it. Beware debating with strangers!

Husband and I have always been very firmly in the camp of keeping our bed as our bed. Our choice for our family is for everyone to have their own bed and their own space. Very few things remain sacred in a marriage once you have children and we decided our bed should be sacrosanct. We also made the decision not to share because Husband is a deep sleeper, and he’s big and heavy (sorry bean!) and we do like to have a drink – at the appropriate times and places of course! Co-sleeping was just never an option for us. The plan was, and is, that our bed is ours between the hours of 7pm and 7am. Occasionally that goes out the window, but only if one of them is ill and even then it’s only til the Calpol kicks in then they are back to their own bed. Girly no1 actually asks to go back to her own bed now. Girly no2 rebelled early on and did spend one night in our bed, but that’s because she had bronchiolitis and we thought she might die. We had to take shifts watching her to make sure she kept breathing, it was horrible. 

To some, our get-back-to-your-own-bed-baby approach may sound cruel but we had a scare on the very first night Girly no1 came home that made us adamant about it. I went to sleep and left her dozing on Husband’s chest. He was in the soppy, gooey-eyed haze of happiness that happens post birth but pre-too-many-sleepless-nights. I woke up a few hours later with my precious new bundle of joy nestled into my back. He had dropped her. I was rigid with fear as I realised what had happened. At that moment, Husband rolled over ready to hug me with his big rugby player arms and thighs – he was about to squash her! I scooped her up and clung to her like a koala kissing her head and muttering into her oily head fuzz. Husband woke up a few minutes later to the angriest I’ve ever been with him. I growled at him in a voice I’ve never heard come out of me before. I screeched in a high pitched voice only dogs could hear. Had I been able to, I would have loomed over him like Jafar in Aladdin (film du jour for Girly no1) but I couldn’t move properly because of the csection. My normally calm persona had disappeared with size 10 waistline. He was terrified, of me and of what had happened. He apologised for days. The lesson was clear though. From that day on, no more sleeping with the babies on us and they always go back into their basket or bed at night. In many ways it was a blessing. There’s no feeling quite like the one when you realise your baby may be hurt, it’s a mixture of grave nausea, bitter fear and acidic panic. Like if you were to put sambuca, tequila and absinthe all in the same shot glass then set fire to it in the back of your throat. 

For the first few nights after that Girly no1’s Moses basket was jammed right up against the bed next to me so I just had to reach in and grab her when she needed feeding. Then, when The Fear kicked in, I decided that our heavy duvet could get her so we moved her to the bottom end of the bed in the corner of the room. My foot only had to touch the floor once to reach her when she needed feeding. A couple of the mums I mentioned it to asked me “don’t you keep getting up to check she’s still breathing?” To which I responded by throwing my head back, opening my mouth wide and laughing like a baddy in a film. “Hahahahaha!” Because it was never necessary.  My precious little girl, with the big eyes and the dinky face, sounded like a warthog. Every breath in, every breath out – a truffle snuffling warthog. In between sleep cycles, she thrashed around making her basket creek and squeak. Her Moro reflex (that’s the name for that thing they do in the first couple of months that makes them look like a flying squirrel) was frequent and aggressive, it was constant throughout the night and she would wail and whimper every time. There was very little doubt as to whether my baby was breathing well. Her many colds made it even worse. Those nights we had ourselves a truffle snuffling warthog on a steam train. Sleeping while she was in the room was almost impossible. 

#parenting #baby #sleeping #warthog #mum #mother
My Little Warthog

After three months, when Girly no1 outgrew her Moses basket, we had a decision to make. We were very aware of the guideline that says don’t move your baby out before 6 months old, largely driven by the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) but we weren’t going to invest in a third bed. We weighed up the risks and decided to move her into her own room. Similarly with Girly no2 she was on her way to outgrowing her basket after 7 weeks. She probably had another month of it but we had a beautiful solid oak cot just waiting for a baby! So we moved her out at 8 weeks. The first few nights, for both of them, were a little tense and I constantly woke up to check them. But with the video monitor by my head, I could see and hear them both thrashing, snuffling and snorting. By the third night, they and I slept like a baby, which is, by the way, the worst expression I’ve ever heard. From now on I shall use “slept like a teenager after a 3-day bender”. 

Moving the girls into their own rooms that early has been the right thing for us all. That little bit of distance means I wake up for a proper cough rather than a catch in the throat, a cry rather than a whimper, a proper wake up rather than just some head shaking. As I type this, it sounds horribly selfish – I moved my baby out of my room so I couldn’t hear her and could get some sleep. But I am ok with this because it’s not as bad it sounds (reads). As well as the video baby monitor there’s that innate connection that I believe a mum has with her babies. Particularly in these first few months, it’s as though they leave behind a mini version of themselves in your inner ear. Even if I’m not with them, I know if they’re crying. If I am with them, their cry is akin to someone blowing a vuvuzela in my ear, I behave as though I’m being given electric shocks. Coughing makes me jump up like a meerkat. I think I would know if they needed me. Even though they are in another room. 

Where your baby sleeps is such a big decision. It sounds so simple when you are pregnant and it’s really very easy to hold a newborn baby all day, but there are so many other factors to consider. A lot of it depends on how many times you want to get up and down out of bed but for us, the extra footsteps in the middle of the night are worth it. I also think the distance is a huge contributor to them sleeping through. Girly no1 slept through at 8 weeks so was evicted a couple of weeks later and Girly no2 has moved to an 80% strike rate on sleeping through since she moved out. As much as I love snuggling up with my babies, I love them too much to let them sleep with us. For their safety, our marriage and my back, I’ll carry on watching them in black and white on the monitor from dusk til dawn. 

Just Eat Baby

This Sundays blog is about how I fed my Girlys their milk. From wrestling with an angry woodpecker through to weeping tears in to their ear holes, it’s been an experience! If you enjoy the read then please share it. That and a cheeky thumbs up are the biggest form of flattery. But before I launch into my ramblings, you need to know that I don’t care how you feed your baby. I mean I really don’t care. I care that your baby is fed. If they are not, then go and feed them instead of wasting your time reading shit blogs. This post is about me, not you. No judgement is applied or implied to whatever you did, do or intend to do. 

I have enormous boobs and have done since Sixth Form when I was made aware of them. A spotty scrote shouted something charming about my “big tits”, which genuinely took me by surprise. I didn’t realise they were any bigger than anyone else’s, but from that day forth, I have been subjected to every possible boob joke and comment you can imagine:

  • “Nice tits love” – I’m unclear what to do with this one, I accept it as a complimentary observation and when quick witted enough make reference to said gentlemen’s saggy ball sack
  • “You’ll get two black eyes doing that” often levelled at me when using the trampoline in the garden. The logistics of this has always thrown me because surely it would be a black chin, unless my boobs were akin to a snooker ball in a sock (think Magda from There’s Something About Mary). They’re not FYI. 
  • “Your boobs are enormous, can I have a feel?” Often comes from women. No, you cannot. 
  • “You don’t get many of them to the pound” I’ve never really got this, they’re not for sale and they’re heavier than a pound? In fact when a friend and I once tried to weigh them on her mums kitchen scales we estimated about 6lb per boob. 
  • And my personal fave, “I bet you give a great tit wank”. I don’t think I do, I’ve never tried. I think it would be terribly uncomfortable and I’m not sure I could move quickly enough to achieve the required result. 

Given the years of unwelcome comments, the gawping, the rude birthday cards and the incessant questions, I felt that my breasts should do something useful (besides get me out of parking tickets) and fulfil their true destiny. Their breastiny! They should be used to feed babies. I come from a family of plentiful boobied breast feeders who produced more cream than milk and grow big fat babies so it seemed like a given that I would do the same. To give you some context, in my current (over sized) state, a 36GG will not fit me comfortably. So I have Katie Price’s tits on Colleen Nolan’s body. I aspire to be more like Holly Willobooby but I’m a little lazy and I love biscuits. 

#Breastfeeding #Milk #Mummy #Milk #Boobies #Bottles #Parenting
The Spacehopper and the Mouse

I breast fed Girly no1 for 7 months. It took a while for my milk to come in after my csection and I couldn’t get my angry little woodpecker to latch for longer than a millisecond so we had to start on formula. In all fairness to her, it was like asking a mouse to suck a space hopper. She butted furiously and I cried a lot. We had this battle every 2 or 3 hours for 3 weeks. I spent more time topless on my sofa than I care to remember. Husband laughingly refers to this period now as one of the worst, not just seeing us both in such distress, but having to look at giant full breasts but not be allowed anywhere near them. When he wasn’t crying with us, he was drooling like a kid at a sweet shop window. Every midwife in the hospital had tried to help us but I had no milk. When I came home and the community midwife came to visit, I still had no milk. I saw the health visitor after a week and once my milk came in she gave me the same advice and showed me the same techniques, but still we just couldn’t nail it. I considered giving up all the time but I was so determined to do it. This just intensified when Girly no1 got her first cold at 4 days old. She went on to get a cold every 3 or 4 weeks for all of her first 18 months. All I could do to help was give her my antibodies. I had loads of helpful advice from people – maybe it’s your big nipples? Oh ok, I’ll just get them replaced. Maybe it’s because you had a csection? Cool, I’ll go back in my time machine and undo my placenta prevaria then have her normally. Well it must be the way you’re holding her? Dangling her upside down out the window a la Blanket Jackson doesn’t work? Ok, show me how you would do it. No one showed me a technique I hadn’t tried! I watched YouTube videos, I went to our local hospital, I spoke to other mums. Everyone was as helpful as they could be but the crux of it was that I had a hugely sore and swollen stomach and I was battling my screaming, starving baby who was head butting my excruciatingly painful planet sized boulders and their bleeding nipples. I carried on trying for every feed in those first few weeks. Eventually, and gradually, things fell into place. Left boob then right boob. My pain eased off, she grew, her latch got better, we found the positions that worked for us and then finally, Phil & Grant fulfilled their breastastic destiny. By 4/5 weeks we had it nailed, and I could even feed her on the right side out in public without flashing my boob, banging her head on the table or suffocating her. Top mum points! 

Once we got it, I went full circle and stopped giving her any formula at all. Until 4 months we were 100% breast feeding, or at the very least expressed milk in a bottle. I spent hours pumping – muuuur muuuur muuuur – instagrammimg pictures of my increasing milk volumes and freezing as many cubes of milk as I could. I drove Husband to distraction obsessing over milk production, how to feed her and when. I’m sure he wanted to ban pumps, boobs and the word “breastfeed” from the house altogether but I was fanatical, obsessed, and he just wanted us both to be happy. Eventually, a cloud lifted and I saw the world more clearly. It finally landed with me that if my baby was growing and heathy then how she was eating didn’t really matter. I re-introduced a formula feed each day in anticipation of my return to work two months later. I was freed from the boob metronome that had ruled our days. What actually convinced me to stop was the discovery that all my hard pumped milk cubes in the freezer were defrosted and some had gone off! My sister and her partner babysat the first time we stayed away and created “Breast Milk Roulette”. You defrost cubes at random taking it in turns to taste them until you have enough good ones for for a bottle. High stakes! I was horrified, not at the game (I was secretly impressed at the Auntie commitment) but at the fact it could go off. How devastating! I stopped pumping immediately. 

I hadn’t spent too much time before wondering about how I was going to breastfeed. Obviously we were shown some techniques and things to remember but being, like childbirth, another one of these “most natural things in the world” I thought it would just happen. It didn’t. Not without blood, sweat and tears anyway. The best thing anyone ever told me is that breastfeeding is a skill and has to be learnt. Once I understood this it became something of a challenge, like learning to throw a javelin or using a pogo stick. I could, and still can, totally see why so many people don’t try or give up, especially in those early days when, with the best will and technique in the world your nipples hurt, your boobs are tender and that oh-so-easy arm hold isn’t quite as easy as you thought. I’m not going to go into the pressure on mums thing, because actually I think there is pressure and guilt no matter what your decision is. My decision was my decision. I would wear the shit wire-free bras that gave you boobs shaped like a hockey stick (I didn’t even know these existed until I had a baby); I would take the extra ration of calories and apply them to my daily cake allowance; and I would feed my baby with one arm casually draped over my lap while she quietly suckled and I sipped on a “hot” drink and flicked through a magazine. HAHA HAHA HAHA. 

My second baby was much easier. There were no major issues and feeding went, and is going, well. She went to full term and was born naturally (and painfully, gory details here). My milk came in almost immediately, her latch was perfect and she didn’t peck at me like a chicken. However she is a very hungry baby who would happily feed every 90 minutes if she could. Even now at almost 4 months, she struggles to go 3 hours without milk. In those first few weeks, she was feeding 14-16 times a day for between 10 and 30 minutes at a time. I found it incredibly draining. I have found with them both that as they are drinking my body is hit with waves of exhaustion making me feel nauseous and I can barely keep my eyes open. I can’t say I love the sensation. I love the closeness and the skin contact, and I feel good about the fact I’m passing on antibodies and giving her something made just for her, but I hate having my nipples sucked and I definitely don’t like drawing any more attention to my lady lumps than I have to. This time around Husband was prepared and saved me from myself. He suggested at least one feed a day from a bottle from the very beginning. We tried all the bottles, and all the formulas and I expressed from early on to get her to take a bottle. I would express after we put her down at night whilst watching the box set du jour (The Young Pope at that point in time, every time I see Jude Law’s face I hear the noise – muuuur muuuur muuuur). After a couple of weeks of experimenting, she was comfortably drinking from a bottle meaning Husband could cover some night feeds. A week later I stopped pumping and we transitioned over to formula for his feeds. We haven’t looked back since. 

I have said before that in having children I was scared that I might freak out about the fact that another human’s existence was solely dependent on me. Just breast feeding exacerbated this. What if I needed a day off? What if I needed to go and be me for a day? I have always needed that option of escape. I haven’t had to use it but I feel better just knowing it’s there. I found it quite stressful knowing that my little vampire could only feed from me. Combination feeding was and is my saving grace. It turns out my sanity comes in a plastic bottle with a nylon nipple branded Mam. My next conundrum will be when to stop. I found it hard to make the decision with Girly no1, I was torn between my needs and hers, feeling selfish that I wanted to stop. Work and the complete lack of provision for pumping or feeding was a big factor. I also held onto a lot of weight until I stopped feeding last time, it affected my confidence and it’s the same this time. My weight loss has plateaued and I’m wearing jeans two sizes bigger than normal, I hate it! Teeth were another factor. Girly no1 had a way of rubbing her teeth on the bottom of my nipple making me really sore. She bit me once and something in me died. It was a tooth too far. I justified my decision to stop to myself with the fact that she was successfully up and running on solids so getting a good and varied diet. I didn’t want my last feed to be like a funeral so one day, at a friends’ BBQ, I decided there and then, no more feeds. It was the best thing or I would have spent hours blubbing over her and making her baby curls all wet. I knew by this point that my bond with her wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon and if ever I felt nostalgic I stripped her down to her nappy and cuddled her to my bare skin. It sounds odd now I’m typing it, like I just rub my baby on my face like a flannel (I don’t!), but it really is one of the best feelings in the world having their baby soft chub rolls all squished up against your own. Heaven! 

I don’t know how long I’ll carry on with Girly no2. There are fewer external factors as I have more time off work, but this one is so much hungrier. Antibodies matter to me a lot, no2 had bronchiolitis at 4 weeks and it was very scary. What I do know is that I will continue to make decisions based on her needs but also my own. And I will continue to not listen to anyone else. They’re my boobs, my nipples and my baby. I suggest you do the same!

#PhilandGrant #boobies #Breastfeeding #Milk #babies #mummy
Phil and Grant the 36GG’s

I Should Be So Lucky

This morning I woke up with a magna doodle in my hand on which I had impressively drawn a cow in my sleep. You should know that I don’t keep art supplies nearby in case of midnight inspiration, it was 6-something in the morning and Girly no1 was in bed demanding I draw farm animals. Girly no2 had been awake 3 times in the night, for the fourth night in a row, and I was that level of tired where I felt sick. The tired when you think you have sat up and held a conversation but actually you’re still lying face down in your drool-coated pillow with your eyes closed. Really though, I had no right to be that tired because although I had been awake it was Husband who had tended to no2’s tears. He’s good like that. He’s very good in fact. I’m a very lucky lady. Although sometimes, just sometimes, I wish everyone wouldn’t bang on about just how lucky I am. I should paint a picture here before you cast your screen aside with a mutter of “ungrateful bitch” under your breath. I may well be, but hear me out. 

I was always massively nervous about having children. Until I got together with Husband, I never really liked being around the same person or people for a prolonged period. I’d get bored or we’d start to fight. I worried that when I had children, I would get bored, and wish I could get away from them and just go hang out with someone else for a few days. And I knew that you weren’t allowed to do that. I knew it wasn’t ok to take a holiday from being a parent (you see how well prepared I was?!)! Also I have always been very committed to my career from a young age. I’m proud of what I have achieved and hope that it doesn’t stop here, I’m a career girl through and through. So the deal with Husband, when we agreed to make little people, was that we would be in it 50:50. The nights, the looking after, the pick ups, the drop offs, the shitty nappies….all of it. 50:50. 

Husband and I were living in London when we found out I was pregnant with Girly no1. I told Husband the wonderful news by throwing the weewee stick at his face at 4 o’clock in the morning and shouting “I’m fucking pregnant” then bursting into tears (standard). When I told my mum, she thought I was going to announce that I was dying. Our flatmate thought we were telling him I had a brain tumour. It took me a while to look happy about it! Although we had agreed that I would come off the pill, I wasn’t actually expecting a baby to happen. I had convinced myself I was infertile, I think it was all the Grazia and Stylist articles screaming at me about fertility falling off a cliff after 30. I was 32 and assumed I had flushed all my eggs down the toilet. The night we found out we went to see the Jonathan Ross show being filmed with a bunch of friends. Jack Whitehall and Bradley Walsh were on and if I see either of them now I fleetingly get that ensemble of emotions – terror, nausea, excitement, childishness – The Chase is a thrilling watch for me. We couldn’t concentrate on a word they said, we just kept looking at each other. Husband was delighted and I don’t think he ever felt anything other than excitement and motivation. I, on the other hand, was all over the place. Maybe it was the hormones. Or maybe it was the belief that I wasn’t a real grown up and shouldn’t be allowed to be in charge of a baby. I was also scared about what would happen to our marriage. I took a long time to accept my new “pregnant” status but I had almost accepted it by the time she arrived. Moving to our family home in Hampshire changed our life radically – prosecco in front of the fire, boozy BBQs, Sky box sets and Sunday afternoon painting sessions – it was all part of the transition. Our marriage changed. I fell in love with my Husband all over again and for totally different reasons. We found a whole new level and I suddenly understood why couples stay together for the sake of their children. He grew a sparkly halo that only I can see and my tummy goes funny still when I look at him. It wasn’t all hugs and kisses though. It took us a good few months to find our happy place again. At 3am when the baby had woken up for the 4th time and was screaming for reasons unclear, if Husband and I had “alternative views” on how to proceed, we didn’t handle it well. I wanted to bite him. Or punch him with a knuckle duster. Or kick him with boots that I had put rusty spikes in. Or just for him to get out of the house with the baby so I could go back to sleep. I pause here to applaud, woop, high five, give a standing-ovation, award medals, hand oscars to women who do this alone. Whether you have a shit partner, chose to do it alone or you’re a single mum for some other reason, well fucking done. Because without Husband, there is no way that me and my two daughters would still be here in one piece. It took us time to figure out how to keep our marriage a happy one. There were many what’s-wrong-with-the-baby-fights, was it food, nappy, over-tiredness? At 3am you try all of them multiple times and eventually something works. But getting to what works is like the Cyclone trial from I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. I felt like Husband always blamed it on her being hungry so I had to wake up and feed her. He thought I was too tight with calpol and gripe water. He wanted to take layers off because she was hot, I wanted to add blankets because she was cold. For the first three months nights were horrific. I began to dread sunset like something out of a vampire film. Eventually, thanks to our super duper family, we made it to the pub where we do all our best thinking. Old habits die hard and all that! We figured out that I couldn’t stay awake after 11 but if I got 4 hours then I could function again at 3. Husband could stay up much later but once he was asleep, waking back up killed him, so we split the nights. We agreed no fighting after dark. We agreed the Who’s In Charge rule. Whoever was on shift was In Charge. They got to make the decisions. Medicine, layers, food, bed location….they decided. No arguments. We put it into practice the next day and it changed our lives. It was the best thing we did and I believe it saved us from some very unhappy months. It is the one piece of advice I would offer any couple where the Dad is actively going to be involved. If you’re on your own, I wouldn’t say anything. I would never be so stupid. High fives to you again. 

The impact of Girly no2 has been far less than the first time round. We found out I was pregnant through experience at just 4 weeks. I knew immediately – my cider tasted weird, everything smelt revolting, and walking past the butcher every day on the way to the station made me sick in my mouth. I managed not to throw the weewee stick at him this time and I even cracked a smile. We moved house again, 2 weeks before she was born (the same as last time), and we focused on keeping Girly no1 happy. This time was much easier. We had already given up every Friday night in the pub, the fun London flat mate, drinking from noon on a Saturday and refusing to leave the house before 2pm. We were now the ones inviting people round at 11am and having our child free mates snort in our faces. Life had a new rhythm and, to my surprise, I loved it. My biggest fear of getting bored of my child hadn’t happened (turns out she’s pretty cool) and I felt much better prepared this time round. We’ve had some pretty hairy moments since Girly no2 was born, but we’ve been quick to go back to our old rules. I don’t dread the nights this time, but that’s mostly down to my amazing Husband. Just last night he was out of bed at 3.30 giving no2 a bottle letting me go back to sleep. I got lucky in the relationship department. I have a dedicated husband who believes that as I do all the feeding by day, he should do the feeding at night. Because I spend most of my days pacifying an over-tired baby, he should spend his nights pacifying an over-tired baby. I change nappies so he changes nappies. We both clean up shit, we both clean up sick. It’s 50:50 just like we agreed. 

I do know how lucky I am. He’s amazing and I am grateful. Compared with many women and many of my friends, I have so much support, not just from Husband but from our families too. Our girls have flocks of people around them that love them. But! Here is the ungrateful part. I am constantly faced with the the “we never had men help like that in our day” or the “you’re soooo lucky, I’ll take him if ever you don’t want him”. And to be honest, it pisses me off! Not because these aren’t true statements, but because they make it sound like I have it easy or imply I am being lazy. It goes back to this “you have it easy” thing that we’re so good at levelling at other mothers. I can’t turn around and say “Husband and I went into this 50:50 so that I could continue with my career and being me as well as being a mum” – it’s just not the done thing. I realise I sound like a complete madam, but I think everyone who has children does a great job. Why does he get lashings of compliments just because he’s a boy? I’m one that split my vagina getting her out! So I just have to stand and take it on the chin and smile my best smile and watch him smirk at me from across the room as everyone tells him how great he is. I suppose someone has to tell him….! 

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is us, our marriage and most importantly, our family. Pre-baby, our priority was having fun. That goes completely when your baby arrives and it becomes all about keeping your baby alive and trying not to let their cry kill you along the way. At the beginning I think we lost it completely but because of the incredible support, a lot of conversation and nothing too heavy being thrown across the room at midnight, we got it back. Thanks Husband for our life. You’re alright. 

#parenting #2ndchild #husband #love
Midnight Cows