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 Β£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. 
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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. 

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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

Having two: It’s Twice Everything, My Friend

My darling friend, the Paramedic, is pregnant with her second child. Our first two were born within three weeks of one another. I’ve seen her a few times recently and each time she looks at me with her beautiful longing eyes and asks the question “how bad is it?”. If you’ve read anything else I’ve written, you will realise I’m not one to shy away from the truth. I know she wants me to tell her that it’s not that bad (it is) and that it’s easy (it’s not) but I just can’t do it to her because in a matter of months she will look as I do now. 

I’m only 3 months in and fully aware of the fact it is early days. The first 12 weeks aren’t called the fourth trimester for nothing. The issue is that this time around I thought I would be cool with having a newborn. Our mantra was going to be “babies cry”, said in a flippant, nonchalant I’m-cool kind of way. We wondered how we let ourselves get so freaked out the first time round. We wondered why we were late for everything (“it’s just a baby and a bag?”) and we wondered how we made such a meal out of it all. And then she was here. Girly no2. Being all angry and red and crying loudly all the time. Ragey May we call her. She wriggles constantly and she scratches and she doesn’t sleep. And she is demanding. So demanding! Her cries are like a pneumatic drill in my temple. Her scratches like a fistful of needles scraped down my chest. Her sleeplessness has reduced me to tears on multiple occasions. She has a little dry patch of skin from her eye to her ear where her salty tears run down her face (saddest thing ever, it makes me never want to put her down). 

The thing is, none of these things should be a surprise. It has been just two years since I did this last time, how could I have forgotten? But I have. I guess it’s that thing your brain does in its’ efforts to make you reproduce again. Having a newborn is so bloody hard! I had forgotten about that biological thing that means when your baby makes a noise you can’t hear anything else. I forgot that I could be mid-conversation about something really fascinating and yet when hearing that noise, I become possessed. I only hear every third word that is being said to me and my shoulders rise up to my ears with tension. I want to rock back and forth chanting “make it stop” over and over again. Husband reminds me that it was the same last time. But I don’t remember. I had forgotten that you can’t always console them. Sometimes they just carry on screaming regardless of what you do. I think it’s worse this time because whilst under-going this water-board grade torture (apologies for my melodrama if ever you have actually suffered this), I’m also desperately trying to keep my little green-eyed Hulk happy. When they both cry, it is like a jack hammer in each ear. I bristle and I growl. Fortunately for me, I have a good Husband. A great Husband in fact. He has maintained many of the lessons from our first time round including a calming pace that has now pacified both of our daughters in a way I cannot. I tell myself it’s because I smell of milk but I think it is just his resilience is greater than mine. When he is not there, it becomes something of a trial in endurance, far worse than my GCSE bleep test. A trial that I’m not yet very good at, and it often ends in tears or me screaming “Fuuuuuuuuuuuck” into a pillow. Sometimes I go into my cold damp utility room at the back of the garage to “sort the washing out”. I hate doing washing. When they are both eventually at peace I analyse what happened and spend hours berating myself for not stopping them cry quickly enough, or for snapping at no1 when she had done nothing wrong. This part is the hardest. 

Getting out of the house has become more difficult than it ever was before. It had become so easy. I was at the point where we whipped out the door. I took one spare nappy, some wipes and a packet of raisins to get me through a day. If I forgot them it was no biggy. Girly no1 was even starting to put her own shoes and coat on. We have regressed. Somehow, we are ready to go, and yet I find 45 minutes has passed until we are driving off our drive. This Bermuda Triangle simply requires shoes, coats and getting in the car. My logical mind tells me this is a 10-minute activity except it’s not. I know I often add 30 seconds at the end because I am doing the weewee dance where I haven’t pee’d all day, but not 30 minutes. Where do they go? Then there is all the stuff. I am permanently laden with bags. As well as all the newborn stuff, let’s not forget the sheer volume of this, I take a spare change of clothes, 4 nappies and 10 snacks for Girly no1 because if I don’t, she’ll throw herself into a muddy puddle (thanks Peppa) face down and the only way I can get her out is by bribing her with food. On the plus side, I have great guns. 

Other things are generally more difficult, and I haven’t yet perfected them. The main ones that fox me on a daily basis are:

  • Getting them both into the car. I ask this as a serious question – how? How do you get your baby into the car while your toddler is loose? Do you put the baby down in the middle of the grey car park in their grey camouflage car seats while you pin the toddler in? Or do you wrestle the baby into their seat whilst pinning the toddler to the muddy tyre with one knee? I opt for the latter and accept that I have to wash her coat almost daily even though this pisses me off (I obviously don’t wash her coat that often, who could be arsed)
  • What do you do when you’re breast feeding your baby and your toddler is pouring a cup of milk all over the seat of a chair with non-removable cushions? You just watch. Some days you attempt to stop it. Other days you sigh and look the other way. There’s no point shouting because by the time they’ve stared you out and stamped their feet it’s soaking anyway. 
  • My baby cries every day from 4 til bedtime. During which time Girly no1 wants dinner. I can’t always give her ham and cheese because she needs some vegetables in her diet. These are hidden in the depths of Spag Bol we keep in the freezer. We make it in huge batches and all I need to do is defrost it and boil some pasta. Therein lies the difficulty – making pasta with a crying baby on your hip. I have to stand sideways to the hob pushing her as far away as possible and then use my foot to keep Girly no1 away from the boiling splashing water. It’s not my favourite. 
  • Going to the toilet. When? I can count on one hand the times they have been asleep at the same time. I used this to pick up nappies from around the house. Or throw a washload on. Or once, as a special treat, I ate some food! Wild!
  • My final, and least favourite battle, is bedtime. The few times I have done this on my own has felt like a war. That I’ve lost. No2 cries constantly. No1 runs around naked and shouting, her naughtiness directly correlated to how tired she is. Every time no2 is on the brink of dozing off, no1 storms in shouting and throwing toys in her face. I have no wisdom on this time of day. I just have to get through it knowing that prosecco and vape await me. 

So, to my darling Paramedic friend, whose baby will be here in a few months, here are all the things I couldn’t say out loud and probably shouldn’t be saying to you now. I sit here in the baby haze, amid the smell of milky sick looking through bloodshot eyes from under an over-grown fringe and I say to you, “honestly? It’s really fucking hard”. However. A BIG however. If you ask me how good it is rather than how bad, an unstoppable smile spreads across my face, my body becomes warm from the inside out and my tummy gets something close to butterflies. Because despite the fact I’ve gone back to cold tea, I don’t fit any of my clothes, will never read a magazine again and can no longer apply eyeliner; having two is twice as much of everything. Love, smiles, giggles, cuddles (sick, poo, tears!), all the things that make little people so wonderful. My little Hulk gets funnier every single day and is starting to demonstrate something that might be tenderness towards Girly no2. It could just be wind of course. And my baby girl is the 3rd love of my life. She is beautiful. I spend hours staring at her. She wakes up in the morning smiling and when she’s finished feeding, she looks up and me and laughs. She literally fills me with love. I adore her. I am blessed in that we have time to bond when Girly no1 is at school and in the mornings when she doesn’t cry as much. We go to yoga and we go swimming. And we lie next to each other staring at one another’s’ eyes. I am besotted (don’t tell no1!). They are both beautiful girls of course and along with Husband, we are a family. We sing stupid songs, we make each other laugh and we love nothing more than to cosy up in front of whatever Pixar film is currently in favour with Girly no1. When we are all snuggled up and I have one little person nestled into each side, I am my happiest. I even, on occasion, find myself wondering where on earth a third one goes!

Parenting sisters 2ndchild
Twice the yum
The Pramshed

Having Two: One baby, one Hulk

I feel awful admitting this but it’s taken me a little longer to fall for Girly no2. Not because she isn’t utterly adorable, not because she doesn’t sleep, and not because she sharts (definition: shits and farts at the same time, a projectile poo if you like that better) on me daily, but because I feel like I’m cheating on my firstborn. No2’s arrival has been wonderful for Husband and I, the problems are less scary and you can enjoy the good bits more. But it has been less pleasurable for no1 whose world is in disarray. She moves around the house like a lion stalking its prey. Sometimes she pounces. Most of the time I sweep no2 out of the way in time, but occasionally I’m not quite fast enough and she receives an over-sized head to the tummy and a mouthful of fluffy blonde curls sending her into blinking over-drive. No1 is doing her best but she’s struggling to really like no2. She likes the thought of her and she likes to always know where she is. But she’s only really happy when no2 is in her bouncy chair or tucked up in bed. Then her world is as it was BG2 (before Girly no2) and she has full control of her audience once more. 

We talked a lot to Girly no1 while I was pregnant about the new baby. Sometimes she patted my tummy and said baby, other times she looked at me under her brow with a facial expression matching Daddys when I over fill the rubbish bag. As with any toddler, she didn’t really get it and we tried not to get her over-excited about her new non-playmate. When the joyous, by which I mean stab me in the heart with a rusty screwdriver, time came for the birth of no2, my Mum picked Girly no1 up and I barely saw her for 3 days. It was heart-breaking and one of the hardest things about no2 being born (yep, that’s despite the gooch ripping). She went on Sunday lunchtime and we didn’t come home until Wednesday afternoon. It might not have been such an issue had we not returned with the limelight thief. No1 came to the hospital on the Tuesday when we were hoping to be released and was deeply distressed by the cannula in my hand continually demanding I take it out. She looked at the new baby and did her best fake smile then as Husband picked no2 up, she shouted at him to “put it back in its’ cot”. This did not bode well, but it was early days. The next day Husband collected her and they came to take us home. Girly no1 brought with her a new facial expression, one I have since become quite familiar with. She tilts her head to one side and looks sideways, bringing her hands up to just below her chin and wiggling her fingers. She makes a little “do-do-do-dooo” noise in a high pitched squeaky voice, not dissimilar to Homer Simpson, or my Husband when he’s stealing food or looking at boobies. It was her new naughty indicator, hearing that sound now makes me drop whatever I’m doing and run! That day, she was the naughtiest I’ve ever known her. She ran in and out of the other cubicles shaking new mums’ curtains making their terrified faces tremble as they saw into their future. I tried to reassure them in a pathetic voice that even I didn’t believe. She heard nothing I said. Her body lost all form whenever I touched her. She ran towards roads and cars refusing to be held. I was devastated, who was this child? I briefly wondered if my mum had filled her with E numbers for breakfast, but deep down I knew what was going on. She was green eyed and furious. I had my very own little Hulk to contend with. We arrived home and as I sat on my ring cushion, Husband and I debated whether this was the same child from the previous Saturday. How much could one child change in such a short space of time? Husband announced he was going out for emergency supplies and I begged him not to. There was no way I could cope with the Hulk and a baby – she might smother her, or throw rocks at her head. He wasn’t going anywhere, we would use coconut milk in our tea. It would be delicious! As the days went on, she got worse. She shouted and screamed and stamped her feet, usual toddler shit but very out of character for Girly no1 who had always been more of a thinker and a watcher. We tried not to shout or tell her off too much even though she was being a pain. It wasn’t her fault she had all these new feelings she didn’t understand. Her eyes were full of hurt and she wanted her mummy and daddy back. It was horrible and I felt bad but also really hard work. I began to dread the next 12 months, I even looked into whether you could change your length of maternity leave and what our childcare options would be. There was no way that Hulk and a baby would be fun for the next 12 months. I scrapped that idea when I remembered I would actually have to go back to work and also it wouldn’t help me avoid night times, which always seemed to be worse because she was tired. One day I was running a bath and had Girly no2 in a seat on the floor. I was sat on the toilet – lid down, not poo-ing, though it’s not unusual for me to have to poo with an audience of at least one. Girly no1 was swinging between my knees. I bent down to check the temperature of the water and when I turned around, no2 had a chubby foot on the baby’s head saying “I stand on baby now” in that do-do-doo singsong voice she had adopted for her jealous moments. I wonder now whether my baby’s head would still be round if I hadn’t looked up at that moment. Whenever I was feeding no2 before bed, no1 would do whatever she could for attention, often throwing herself across my chest declaring how much she loved me, suffocating no2 against my over-full breast. BG2, this had been our quiet time of the day where we cuddled up for milk and the Night Garden. We were still trying to maintain it but one particular evening I was on the receiving end of two flying head butts, the second of which nearly cracked my cheekbone. It was a bit of a wake up call. I was fine, but it was only a matter of time til our baby or I were hurt by this little MMA fighter who was now in our presence. So far Girly no2 had got off lightly with a few white knuckled hand holds and some overly aggressive pats, but their heads had missed by millimetres on this occasion and I worried about the softness of my newborns’ skull when up against my toddlers bucket-of-concrete head. We needed to do something about her behaviour. Enough was enough. 

The next few days were tough with what seemed like lots of telling off. I’d become that mum who continuously shouted her child’s name. We tried lots of things. We tried counting to three in an attempt to get her to listen; “one…two…” was met with “three’s next Daddy!” and a proud face. That didn’t work. We confiscated bedtime stories; until one night the whole book case was removed. We looked into rewards charts but she just got obsessed with the stickers and gave them to everyone with a big smile and a “well done!”. I did some reading and watched a few episodes of Supernanny, and we made some basic changes:

  • Lots of face to face conversations at eye level. Our knees are now shot but on the plus side my bum is starting to firm up from the squatting!
  • We worked on our stern mum and dad voices so she knows when we’re being serious. Official parent voices. 
  • We tried to deliver short concise instructions no1 can understand and repeat back. This is a little hit and miss. Imagine trying to explain in 3 words why you shouldn’t shake the bouncy chair to the point the baby lifts out of it, when the baby is giggling her little head off. 
  • We got her and baby into a routine so we have specific time to focus on no1. We make sure we do fun things in that time so she appreciates it – play doh, painting, crafts – things that make my house twice as messy (I give up)
  • We introduced the concept of the toy-free, mummy and daddy-free, no talking naughty step, the threat of which so far has been enough that she hasn’t been on there 
  • We mixed up the bedtime routine so she still means she gets one-on-one cuddle time with Mummy or Daddy. 

These changes have definitely made things better. I found that once life went back to normal with school and naps and it was just the three of us at home, this also helped. The thing that made me feel better about the situation was other mums telling me that their firstborns had turned into angry little Rottweilers too. I gave myself the benefit of the doubt once or twice, maybe it wasn’t all my fault and maybe her life wasn’t completely ruined forever. 

Consistency is key with our first Girly. We still have flare ups of the Hulk. Too much coo-ing over no2 results in tickles that are more like scratches, a lean on no2s tummy that makes her sick or kisses that come with a small head butt. But we focus on the positives and tell her when she’s being a good big sister and try to share our attention around. At the beginning I had to sneak kisses to Girly no2 when her big sister wasn’t looking and I could only talk to her when no1 left the room, but now my affair is out in the open and I can love them both openly. I’m still laden with guilt but every day gets better. I hope it won’t be long until no1 can’t remember a time without no2 here and I live in hope that she will start to enjoy her baby sister. Just this morning we were all snuggled in bed and she declared “we’re all togeffer Mummy!”. And as she snuggled in next to me, she put no2’s feet in her lap and sat gently patting them. Progress!

#2ndchild #parening #mblogger
Do do dooo

The Fear

My child-free-permanently-hungover friends talk about The Fear in the same way I used to. That uneasy “oh shit what did I do last night” feeling that has you hiding under a duvet after a heavy night. I used to suffer from it terribly, I would text everyone apologising the next day, even if they left before I arrived. Today though, The Fear means something very different. The Fear is a cloak I wear all over me all the time. It makes me behave like Gollum. I hold My Precious in my arms while scowling and hissing at people and things. 

I always remember the sound of my Mum’s sharp intake of breath when I used to walk across top of my climbing frame. Or her stricken face running towards my sister and I when we fell out the wheelbarrow (Dad was running with it and we hit a speed bump, cue cartoon like picture of us flying through the air, me landing flat on my back and my baby sister landing on my chest with a bump). Later on in life it was her staying awake until I got home smashed at 3am. She used to get up when she thought I was asleep and come check I hadn’t been sick, moving my hair to be confronted with kohl-stained eyes and the haze of sambuca. In my teen years, all of her worry drove me nuts. Why was she such a stress head? I was fine! I was a grown up! Why couldn’t she just go to sleep and leave me be? Still even now when she worries about my girls I get that prickly feeling of irritation. But now, I understand it. Because I too get sick with The Fear. 

It’s come as a shock. I’ve never been one to give into my fears. I like to consider myself brave and I protect myself. I only care about opinions from people I care about. I’m not friends with two faced people. I don’t think about things that can hurt me. I do things to challenge myself and I focus on the positive, not the worst possible, outcomes. I confront my fears. This has worked well for me through life. Until these two small beasts emerged from me. And now The Fear gets me all the time. Everything is scary. I want to avoid things. I hear everything everyone says. And I think horrible thoughts. I have these flashes of awful things happening to my babies. Someone recently told me that your brain does this to prepare you for something awful happening. I found this really distressing! Has my mind suddenly become Mystic Meg? I don’t want this! These are my most frequent ones:

  • Our big heavy duvet falls into Girly no2’s Moses basket or falls on her when she’s under her gym
  • The spotlights in our kitchen burn out the girls’ corneas blinding them forever
  • I fly down the stairs, babe in arms, crushing Girly no1 as we land. This one happens three times a day ever since a good friend of mine had this happen to her. She tripped then got caught on the bannister and had to watch her baby fly through the air and hit the floor at the bottom. I felt nauseous and choked up for her when she told me about her slowly approaching him to see if was still moving. Bbbbbrrrrrrr. Shivers down my spine. 
  • I put a hat and snowsuit on and they go bright red and overheat. I take them out in just a coat and they turn blue and freeze. I crave yellow. Our house is covered in glowing owls that display the temperature – they’re happy when they’re yellow. 
  • I let Girly no2 have a nap in her car seat and wish I hadn’t. The shock stories that crop up on my newsfeed make me approach ours as if it’s a pin-free grenade
  • Grapes. I only have to look at the little fuckers and all our throats close up. 

You may be scared of clowns. Or China dolls. Heights. Cotton wool (I never got this one, what a weird thing to be scared of). For me it is driving. Other people’s driving to be precise. Cars lurk in side roads waiting to roundhouse kick us. Cars race me from behind as though the chequered flag is waved just ahead. Lorries randomly change lanes as I’m driving past waiting to swat me from the road like a mosquito. I hate anyone else driving the girls and I around. It’s too fast, not smooth enough, too close to the car in front, too sharp around corners. I used to think my mum was mental because she wouldn’t let anyone else (including my dad) drive my two siblings and I in one car. Now I spend time looking at the price of armoured tanks on the internet (they don’t sell them on eBay or auto trader, and Amazon Prime is no good here in case you were wondering). I know this will only get more and more difficult. I dread the first time one of them gets the train to go shopping with their friends, the first time they walk to school, the first time they run into a shop to buy sweets, the first time they run to a public toilet on their own.

All these fears could paralyse me to the point of never leaving a padded cell on the ground floor of my armoured bungalow. But then I would be failing as a parent. Not fulfilling my main objective of bringing a capable, confident, brave, independent individual to adulthood. So I do the only thing I can do. I play with the seesaw of risk. I balance the weight of danger at one end and independence at the other knowing that one day they will take control of it themselves. I’m acutely aware of quite how different others’ seesaws are to my own but I stay focused on mine in the present. I am selective about which horror stories I read from my Facebook feed. I block the terrifying mind flashes before they finish. I drive my tank sensibly paying too much attention to other road users. And when one of The Fears get me, I hold my babies a little bit tighter and remind myself why I’m here.

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My Precious
The Pramshed

Two Little Serial Killers

So now I have two children. I’m responsible for two peoples’ lives. Two personalities to shape…two empty brains to fill…two bodies to keep safe. And two people that I could turn into psychopaths. When I sit and think about the magnitude of this, it feels like someone is body slamming my chest. I mean what if they went on a killing spree? They might become famous Psycho Sisters and get a film made about them. Our very own Natural Born Killers. Someone like Pauline Quirke would play me, she’d be the dowdy old simpleton scratching scraggy grey wiry hair saying “they were such lovely girls…I just don’t know where I went wrong…I thought the dog died by accident”. Twitter would go mental asking why I didn’t get that it was my fault. Oh! The responsibility! All these feelings were amplified when, on the morning after Girly no2’s birth, I switched on the TV to find Donald Trump had been elected into the most powerful position in the world. What had I done?! 

After Girly no1 was born, I lost it in a taxi in Leeds. I got caught up in all of the things I could do wrong to this small child. I threw my arms around wildly and was cry-talking (cralking?!) at this poor man. I felt sick from the pressure. Well, it might have been travel sickness from his speeding through the Yorkshire Dales but I definitely remember feeling sick. Fortunately the driver was a father of 5, one of whom had made it to 16 all in one piece and with what sounded like a healthy attitude towards life. He politely smiled and didn’t say much while I ranted and raved like a deranged person in the back of his cab. It could well have been a scene from Emmerdale right before the main character reaches over and grabs the wheel and ploughs them into a nearby rock so he did well to stay in control. Daddy Cabby calmed me a bit by reminding me of some of the things I had said to him on the journey, and pointed out that I actually cared about how she turned out, so that was a good start. By the time we got back to the airport, I felt oddly close to him, although I hope I never see him again. He was a strange wise old elf, but help comes in many forms. 

Obviously this level of worry is a product of my chronic over-thinking, but fundamentally, it’s people that hurt people. We make or break each others’ lives meaning my responsibility doesn’t stop with my children, it’s the impact they have on everyone else’s life. It’s too much! Everyone I meet, I look at them and wonder how they became that way and what their upbringing was like. The cold stiff robot who can’t keep friends – I imagine she lived in a dark castle where everyone stayed in their own room and no one made skin contact without an awkward shuffle and muttered apology. The overly touchy feely one with personal space issues who steals your food – hippy parents, loads of siblings, shared a bed til they were 16, dressed in home made clothes, possibly lived on a commune. The arrogant but good looking sporty boy – banker wanker dad and frosty pearl wearing mum who made him compete with his brothers for the best score on the spelling test. Obviously these are ridiculously over exaggerated stereotypes from my head but you understand the thing about most (I stress most, not all) people being a product of their environment.  

Before we had the girls, like any new parents, we agreed the things that were important to us and we set out with great enthusiasm about managing them. Our list had we written it down would have read something like this:

  • Compassion – we want her to look at other people and consider how they’re feeling and why. We’ve not quite nailed it yet, Girly no1 shouts “be happy!” at anyone not displaying a megawatt smile on their face (me all day every day until Girly no2 sleeps through) but it’s a start. She is only two.
  • Honesty – any parent wants their child to be able to talk openly, especially to their mum and dad. I always could with mine. I remember crying to my dad about my Husband snogging someone else at a party I wasn’t allowed to go to when we were teenagers. He obviously wasn’t my husband then, he was my 13-year old boyfriend and it was devastating. But the fact I could tell my parents says a lot. We talk a lot to both girls. Weirdly we don’t get much back from Girly no2 at just a few weeks old but Girly no1 never shuts up. Maybe we should re-think this one….
  • Be your best – personally I still go for being the best but you can’t win at everything and that’s a tough lesson to learn. Everyone hates the expression “reaching your full potential” but I’m sure that’s all anyone wants their child to want. Sadly Girly no1 has inherited my, what I like to call, dogged determination but what others might refer to as ridiculous stubbornness. Watching her throw a puzzle across the room because she can’t fit two pieces together makes me feel aggravated for her. But we pick up the pieces and try again. Until another 30 seconds goes by and it happens again, this time accompanied by a wooden spoon from me because I burnt dinner again. My Mother-In-Law The Primary School Teacher has had to teach us a little coping mantra: “We don’t get cross, we take our time”. I can really see it working for me.
  • Have fun – one of my overwhelming memories from my childhood was us all dancing in the kitchen with cabbage leaves as hats on a Sunday afternoon. My parents used to link arms and skip down my school drive for parents evening. We played brutal games of basketball at the back of the house. On reflection they were probably pissed for all of these activities but we all had lots of fun! We play lots, we’re big fans of a kitchen disco, we sing when we drive and we make up crazy stories to entertain ourselves. We’ll never be the Von Trapps but we’ll hopefully never be the Mitchell’s either.
  • Affection – I met someone recently, a married, childless woman, who was criticising her sister-in-law for allowing her nieces into their bed. She went on to say how she hadn’t even been allowed to cross the threshold to her parents room. I’ve thought about this a lot, firstly how funny it is when a non-parent talks about how they would parent (HAHA HAHA! The things you think you know!), but more the balance between marital space and family space. It’s such a personal thing. I think we have it right for us. We have morning cuddles every day and Husband and I aren’t shy about being affectionate in front of the girlies. I look forward to a time when they make gagging sounds and moan at us for being gross. And I look forward even more to a time when that is their norm and they want it for themselves from their relationships. Nothing beats a huge cuddle from the one you love. 
  • Be kind – understand other people’s perspectives and just be kind. Nothing melts my heart like Girly no1 pretending to give me “pink medicine” (!) if she thinks I’m hurt, or offering her favourite comforter to Girly no2 when she cries. 

You set out with these great intentions, you have a plan and you follow it. You tone down the potty mouth, pronounce your t’s, you share your favourite food (I just buy two pots of custard). Then you realise that it’s your behaviour and what they see that will matter the most. And you take a long hard look at yourself and your life. That’s why I won’t be surprised when no1 calls me a nobhead one day. Or when she puts her hands on her hips and shouts “Beany….” in my exact agitated tone to my Husband (Beany is his nickname, not a weird insult). Or when she sits in front of the mirror and says “Will you just let me dry my hair?”. I’m ok with these things because I also know that she’ll give great cuddles, she’ll listen and she’ll ask good questions so it all works out in the end. She might also be great at jaegerbombs later on in life. 

The responsibility of creating another human that will impact other people’s lives is enormous. I have had to fight my inner control freak demon and realise that as long as I can be a good person I’m proud of and associate with good people, that’s the best I can do. In the meantime, I’ll keep the girls away from the knife drawer.  

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My little serial killers