You are everything

Standard
You are everything

Dear Daddy,

I know I’m only 11 months old but I dictated this post to Mummy. I’m quite advanced. It’s our first Father’s Day together so I wanted to tell you some things.

You are very funny

Mummy pretends you’re not as funny as you are. But I think you are hilarious! I hope when I’m all growed up you still make me giggle.

You are my protector

You might think I don’t remember but I know you snuggled me in the night when I wasn’t very well after my injections. When I had a temperature I know you sat up straight, uncomfortable with me heavy on your chest, just because it meant I’d rest and get better. I already know that you’ll be there to keep me safe in every situation you can be, even when I’m bigger and stronger enough to look after myself.

You are cheeky like me

I know I’m not supposed to laugh and throw my pasta around the kitchen, but it makes such a good noise when it splats on the floor! Mummy sometimes looks like she’s going to laugh but tries not to because apparently it’s ‘naughty’ to throw my food, but you always smile – I can’t wait to keep being cheeky with you and making Mummy laugh.

 You know so much stuff

You’ve already told me all about rugby and how we’re going to go and watch games when I’m big enough. I feel like you know all sorts of things that you can teach me – like what superhero is the best, how to count, what songs are good and how to dance. Mummy says you dance ‘like an Essex boy’ – maybe you can teach me all about Essex too.

You’re the only you

Like Tigger, the most wonderful thing about you is that you’re the only one. You’re my only Daddy. I am so glad that I got you when they gave daddies out. You’re exactly what I need, when I need it. I’m so excited about all the adventures we’ll have together with Mummy and I hope today, we can have loads of family cuddles.

By the way, Mummy ordered your present. I think she’s done a good job but if you don’t like it, I didn’t do it. I don’t have a debit card. Silly Daddy.

Andrew Ada Eynsford 2018

I still love to snuggle!

Lots of love,

A xxx

Advertisements

Trekking to the tranquil lake – living with anxiety

Standard
Trekking to the tranquil lake – living with anxiety

If you know me well, you’ll know that I struggle with anxiety. I’m not ashamed of it, and I find one of my most powerful coping mechanisms is to talk about it. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, drowning in a mental to-do list and certain that if I don’t close all the tabs in my head something terrible will happen, it helps to talk.

My husband, love him, is fantastic, but he doesn’t live with anxiety, and so he finds it hard to understand why I’m standing in my underwear on a Monday morning, crying my eyes out because deciding now whether to go for lunch with friends in 5 days time is just. too. hard. So I thought about how to describe it.

On my worst days I am all wrong.

I’m fat. I’m stupid, I’m ugly. I’m ineloquent and everyone is talking about me. I’m never going to get everything done at work. I’m never going to get everything done at home. I’m a terrible mother. I’m an even worse wife. I’m lucky I even have any friends. This cycle of self-contempt is unending and on the very worst days, breaking it feels like Atreyu dragging Artax through the Swamp of Sadness (it’s a Neverending Story reference, kids – look it up).

 

If I was asked, I’d describe my aspirational mental state as a tranquil lake. There are ripples and breezes, and sometimes huge rainstorms; but it all passes in the end and the lake is placid and beautiful again. Each time the frantic, heart-pounding, self-doubting, tearfulness bubbles up inside, I know that I’ll eventually get to that place again. I just need to take care of myself in the meantime.

Self-care

It’s become such a buzz-phrase hasn’t it? Self-care has come to mean treating yourself to that handbag you wanted, or having that extra glass of wine; when at its core, self-care just means being kind to yourself.

How you take care of your own needs is different for everyone, but here’s what I need:

  • Time away from my phone and social media. I’m still learning this one – I’m an addict
  • Sobriety. I don’t have an issue with alcohol, but when I’m anxious it exaggerates my feelings tenfold.
  • Time away from social events. This isn’t personal. I’ve had friends who claim to understand then make snidey comments – please don’t. I’m not being antisocial or picking you out. I just can’t ‘people’ right now.
  • Exercise. In the past this has been my absolute saviour. And since I’m a notorious lazybones with a penchant for Galaxy chocolate, the universe clearly finds itself funny.
  • Permission to be by myself. I need to let myself off for for wanting to read my book instead of chatting with my husband; for arranging visitors on my day off around watching an episode of my favourite programme on my own while my daughter naps.
  • Podcasts. This is a recent discovery but, particularly in the car on the way to and from work, I find a good podcast a great way to get ready for the day or decompress and get ready to go home. I’d recommend Fearne Cotton’s ‘Happy Place’ and the classic Radio4 Desert Island Discs.
  • Time. Despite the odd good day amongst the bad, it is too simplistic to assume an episode has passed because of a better 24 hours. Once I take ownership and action some of the above, I still need time to let my brain adjust.

For transparency, I should add that I’ve only reached the point where I can identify and try to manage my anxious behaviour because of a short period on medication a few years ago and some cognitive behavioural therapy. Both of which I’m proud of – I wouldn’t be able to cope when anxiety hits these days if I hadn’t had medical and therapeutic support. And I’m realistic enough to know I might one day need them again. That’s fine.

If this is all ringing true for you – I’m sorry. It’s shit feeling panicky, frantic, manic and illogical when that small voice at the back of your mind is yelling for you to snap out of it. I won’t say hang in there, because you shouldn’t. Find your coping stuff – talk to a professional if you need to (GP, therapist, counsellor), sign up for some exercise classes, eat more healthily, get outdoors, take some time away / off work.

This is surmountable. Your true self is in there, chomping through this anxiety like Pacman and just needs a power-up to beat the little sucker. Do not define yourself by this and do not be ashamed to talk about it – it’s an illness, not a character flaw. You are an utter legend just for getting up, getting dressed and going out into the world. Celebrate the glorious mundanity of living.

 

 

I want to be *that* mum

Standard

I want to be that mum.

The one who ‘sprung back’ after having their baby

The one without the c-section, kangaroo-pouch/belly-shelf that doesn’t want to shift

The one who looks effortlessly stylish even in the midst of a tiny tantrum

The one who can go part time without frantically balancing the books after every pound spent

The one who oozes maternal love

The one with the willpower to avoid the cake

The one who didn’t spend a good 48 hours after having her baby feeling shellshocked and little bit numb

The one who seems to have settled effortlessly into their new role, their new life without feeling adrift in the process

The one who breastfed without difficulty

The one who doesn’t get frustrated with her baby when it decides to have a bad day

The one who seems to be everything I feel I’m failing to be.

But you know what? I’m not. No-one is really *that* mum. We all have good days, bad days, insta-worthy days and no make-up, vomit-covered clothes days. We all have giggles of pure joy and tears of absolute heartbreaking frustration. We all sometimes need to hand our babies over like a parcel we’d like to send back, and take 5 minutes to just breathe.

And actually, I’m better than any ideal of a mother I have in my head, because I’m *her* mum. I’m pretty damn special. I grew her. I cried over her. I worried before she even had fingers and toes. I spent over a year hoping and praying for her, dreaming about the day I’d be able to moan and feel inadequate, because that would mean I was a mother.

So when I want to be *that* mum, perhaps I should remember that I’m so incredibly unique that I’m literally one in over 7 billion. I’m her only mum, I’m her world; and she is the part of my heart that no longer lives on the inside. I am enough.

Smashing sexism…one babygrow at a time

Standard
Smashing sexism…one babygrow at a time

So here’s the thing. I’m not a feminist activist. I’ve never been to a march or staged a protest. But I do feel very strongly that women and their bodies are nobody’s business but their own; that women can be whatever the hell they want to be (except a serial killer. That’s never advisable); and that the female figure is an incredibly powerful one in life, love, the family, the workplace and beyond. I’ve just never done anything about it in a public or vocal way.

Perhaps I’m not so bothered about myself. I’m already in my 30s, I’ve determined what I want in life and for now at least, I’m happy with the job I’ve worked to be good at, with the role I play within my friends and family network; and I surround myself with people who respect me as an individual, regardless of my gender. Having a daughter, however, has turned me into a defensive lioness.

When she was only a few weeks old, we were in the supermarket when an elderly woman began talking to us in the queue. After a moment of chit chat she asked ‘How old is he?’. It’s an easy mistake and I’m not offended by it, so I responded, ‘It’s a she and she’s 8 weeks old.’ Her reply? ‘A girl? Why have you put trousers on her?!’. She huffed off once she paid for her goods, clearly disgusted at my modern ways. Now while I know this is partly a generational thing, the pink/blue divide is huge when it comes to babies and children.

Clothes

I love a bright pink t shirt or pretty dress as much as the next person, but as a couple we also love dinosaurs (move over Ross Gellar) and superheroes and the colours blue and green. With that in mind we’ve regularly ignored the boy/girl signage and purchased what we like, not what little girls ‘should’ wear. I was delighted when John Lewis got rid of their boy and girl labels and established a simple ‘John Lewis baby’ brand, leaving the choice about who wears it up to the parents. Our daughter has proudly worn wonderwoman outfits, a Flash babygrow, flowery dresses, a dinosaur sleepsuit, a Disney princess all-in-one and several Harry Potter outfits (for that I can only apologise, my love). Funnily enough they didn’t come with the word ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ emblazoned on the front and she looked equally adorable in all of them.

Toys

It was only recently on a trip to a well-known chain of toy shops, that I noticed that the ‘action and adventure’ section was entirely blue – the walls, the signage, the shelves; and the ‘arts and crafts’ and dolls section was bright pink. Perhaps I simply need to reclaim the colours as non-gender specific in my head, but it seemed pretty sexist that the traditionally feminine, arty toys should be for girls and the more aggressive, masculine toys for boys. Perhaps our daughter will love wrestling and racing cars. Perhaps she will indeed have a dolly and a pram and will enjoy painting and crafting. Either way, I’d imagine some children would feel awkward and even intimidated walking into the section aimed at the opposite sex, just because they don’t fit the traditional gender moulds for their interests.

And so…

I guess my point is this. If you have a little girl who loves tutus and dollies and jewellery making, great. If you have a little boy who loves wrestling toys and superheroes and cars, great. If you have a little girl who loves rugby and Star Wars and Pokemon, support her; a little boy who wants to play in a toy kitchen, watch My Little Pony and wear a dress-up princess dress, support him too.

Basically, let’s take gender out of it and just let them do what they enjoy.

Surviving the return to work

Standard
Surviving the return to work

And so we survived. My first week back at work after maternity has come to an end. And do you know what? It wasn’t bad at all. I’d even go so far as to say I enjoyed it. I’m sure I have more stressful weeks ahead of me and I won’t live in this work/life utopia forever. But for one of the biggest worries of the last few months, it’s proved much better than expected. Here’s why I think that’s the case.

My employer

I work for a company who (in my personal experience) have been generous, fair and compassionate with my maternity. I have a supportive and kind manager who provided flexibility for my maternity appointments, and demonstrated genuine interest in how I was doing and what I needed to be comfortable in doing my job and subsequently going on leave.

While on maternity leave she gave me choices throughout. The choice about how much I wanted to stay in touch (i.e. she asked if I’d like to receive the fortnightly staff e-newsletter to my personal email address, and texted me at one point to ask if it was OK to call and get my opinion on a couple of big changes in my team). I told her my availability for ‘keep in touch’ (KIT) days and she made her diary work so that we could have a catch up each time. And early on in my leave, we met up for coffee and cake and she had a cuddle with my little girl, and asked all about how I was finding being a new mum. All of this made me feel confident that my leave was time away from work and that she understood that being a mum was important, and that I had no obligation to get involved in anything unless I wanted to.

My wardrobe

Your entire body changes after giving birth no matter how you do it and how quickly (or not) you ‘spring back’. Prior to my first KIT day I was super nervous about what to wear. I’d lived in jeggings and leggings and baggy floaty tops for months. How on earth was I going to dress to feel a confidence I didn’t feel and feel like myself again?!

I asked for help. And it came in the form of a lovely online community called the Styled by Susie Community on Facebook. Susie Hasler is a stylist based in the South East of the UK and while I’ve not been fortunate to personally experience any of her services yet (they’re on the birthday and Christmas lists), the 3000+ strong group of women she’s curated is supportive, funny, understanding, non-judgemental and incredibly knowledgeable. I posted a shout-out about post-maternity workwear and got links, suggestions, and, in one case, clothes in the post, to get me all kitted out. As a result, this week I’ve felt comfortable, confident and like a bit of the pre-baby me resurfaced for the first time in months.

Our nursery

OK, so she’s only been at nursery for 4 days plus some settling in sessions but my gut tells me it’s the warmest, most nurturing and fun place she could be outside of a family environment. Not once has she cried at drop-off (the tiny traitor) and she’s eaten like a horse, settled in quickly and every single person I’ve spoken to, bumped into or passed in the hallway has been friendly, smiley and kind. I feel genuinely happy leaving her there and I’m so pleased with the choice we made.

My people

I received so many lovely ‘go get ’em’ messages prior to coming back. My incredible NCT ladies (love you girls) provided the support, love and humour that I’ve come to depend on. My best friends each sent personal, kind and encouraging messages. My mum and sister reassured me that Ada and I would both be fine and told me they loved me and my mother in law sent love and luck. My husband told me I was going to be great and everyone would be happy to see me. And my sister and brother in law and nephew sent flowers. I felt empowered and it was because, when my self-confidence had a dip and I got scared, these people provided a much needed boost.

You are not alone

The old cliche that it takes a village to raise a child is so true. It may not be in practical, childcare terms, but I am a better mum because of the people in my life; whether family, friends, colleagues, or ‘online (wonderful) people’ lifting me up, out of the kindness of their hearts. So if you’re due to go back to work, be brave. You’ve got this. And if you have a wobble, don’t be stubborn, just turn around. There is a queue of people behind you, ready to give you what you need to feel strong again.

image1

It’s been quite the ride, kid

Standard
It’s been quite the ride, kid

Dear Ada,

And so here we are. The last day of my maternity leave and the end of our first big adventure together. People keep asking how I feel and I keep rambling on in a vague kind of way. Thanks to my ‘keeping in touch’ days I’m not dreading returning to work. My few days in the office have been productive, a reminder that my brain still works for more than bottle calculations and nursery rhymes; and a flattering encouragement that I’m valued for something other than being a mum (no offence). And while I’ll be sad leaving you with other people, I know you’ll have fun and you’ll grow and develop and be loved.

So what do I feel? I feel grief. Whether Daddy and I have any more children or not, I will never have this first baby experience again. I’ll never go through the exhilarating, terrifying, challenging, heart-bursting, sleep-stealing, life-changing, crazy, beautiful, tearful, hilarious experience of being a first time mum ever again. And so I feel bereft. Hugely grateful, but bereft that it’s all over. Already. Nine months of me and you and Daddy and cuddles and tears and laughter and learning. Finished already. And I know we have years and years of all kinds of fun ahead of us but it’s scary that this first huge milestone is already here.

image1

And so I want to thank you. You made me a mother and for that I have no words. Thank you for your first giggle, for your first smile, for your beautiful babbling and your snuggles and your fluffy hair and your squidgy thighs.

I promise to repay you with more love than you can imagine. With support and hugs, a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. Daddy and me will be your biggest cheerleaders. We will embarrass the life out of you at every play and prize giving. We will do everything within our power to teach you to be strong and independent. We can’t wait to share the world with you. We will keep you safe and make sure you know love and laughter and hope and happiness.

image2

I’m sure you’re bored by now, reading this on your holographic watch in 2028 or something. So thank you for the longest, most intense ‘getting to know you’ ice breaker session I’ve ever experienced. You are my night and day, my heart and soul, my highest of highs and my hardest of days…and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Here’s to the next big adventure.

All of my love,

Mummy xxx

 

No more ‘at leasts’

Standard
No more ‘at leasts’

Dear world, I have a frustration that I need to air.

As a new parent, and I speak particularly as a new mother but this also happens to dads, you get a lot of ‘at leasts’. There are a lot of people, (and sadly, they’re often other parents), who want to play top trumps with your experience as parents. If you had a sleepless night, theirs was more sleepless (yes, this is tautology, but you get my drift). If your baby has been an absolute nightmare all day, theirs was the Kim Jong-Un of the baby universe with fists of fury and the voice of a wailing cat.

Why are we doing this to each other? Pregnancy, parenthood and everything that comes along with this life changing experience, is hard enough as it is. Do we really need to make it a bizarre competition that no-one can win and stress ourselves out even more? Here are a few ‘at leasts’ I’ve personally experienced:

On my c-section: “At least your vagina is still intact”…Well yes Betty it is but they sliced through six layers of muscle and I couldn’t get myself off the sofa for about 3 weeks so there is that.

On my struggle to breastfeed (which ultimately brought me one step away from clinical madness): “At least you had some milk. Mine never came in and I still kept trying until my child was basically wasting away”.

On having a child who sleeps through: “At least you get to sleep. I can’t imagine what that’s like. My child is 30 (OK I may be exaggerating) and they still wake me up 5 times a night.”

On my daughter getting her top teeth before her bottom ones (I kid you not, people have opinions on this): *Adopts weird, patronising, pseudo-sympathetic face* “At least she’s got some teeth”

I could go on but my point is not simply to rant, it’s to make a plea.

Parents, we’re all in this together. Instead of one-upmanship, how about we exhibit some compassion and solidarity? Might I suggest the following amendments to the above situations:

On birth experiences: “You’re a legend. There’s no easy way to give birth and your body just did an incredible thing. Here’s a hug and a giant bar for chocolate for your efforts.”

On feeding: “Even when it works well, breastfeeding is hard work. As long as children are fed that’s all that matters. You do what’s right for your family.”

On sleeping: “It’s all relative. You’re doing a great job, this is a phase. It will get better.”

On teething: “I can’t imagine all of my teeth starting to puncture through my sore, swollen gums all at once. The poor little mite. How has he/she been feeling through it all?”

And the most important one of all: “You’re doing a great job. How can I help?”