Tag Archives: parenthood

Muslins, guilt and mocha-lattes

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Muslins, guilt and mocha-lattes

So, here’s the thing about parental leave…while absolutely necessary while you navigate the paths of parenthood, it’s also a huge adjustment. For those of us used to working full time, suddenly framing your entire day around a small human and desperately trying to secure at least a little adult interaction for yourself every day is both tiring and expensive. I should have shares in Costa, and they should rename the decaf, skinny mocha-latte; ‘the Hilary’.

And as you suggest coffee dates to your family and friends, book lunches and walks and shopping trips, it will creep in. The guilt.

You’re a terrible parent for filling your days with going out. You should be sitting on the floor with your 10 week old daughter, developing her language and development by lying under her jungle gym and making vowel sounds while encouraging tummy time, showing her a mirror and shoving various rattles and small toys in her hands to make her grip them.

And this guilt doesn’t stop at the way you spend your day.

You’ll beat yourself up for walking away from your sleeping little darling for even a moment. Even across an open plan room, while they’re safely ensconced in a travel cot, with a video and audio monitor pointed CCTV-style at their face.

You’ll look down at your little angel and realise that their face, neck, adorable double chins and often, hair, is covered in baby vomit and wonder how long it’s been there. The nearest white muslin is now a yellowy colour because (despite owning over a million of the cotton squares), you’ve been carrying this one around with you for a week. Regardless, you use the yellow, slightly crispy linen to wipe off the latest round of vomit.

You’ll have your first glass of wine or night with friends since pregnancy and immediately worry about ‘how it looks’. Before you can take a sip your poor, tired brain has transformed your innocent (and well-deserved) glass of Sauvignon Blanc into 20 shots and an arrest for drunk and disorderly behaviour.

You’ll catch your baby staring at the television as you take a moment to drink your (lukewarm) tea and panic that you’ve already, in 10 short weeks, become one of ‘those’ parents who leave their children with a TV as babysitter.

You’ll breastfeed, formula feed, combination feed; and no matter what you choose you’ll convince yourself it isn’t right. That you’re doing it wrong. That your baby won’t thrive as a result.

Here is a checklist of things you actually need to worry about:

  1. Is your baby content (most of the time – occasional meltdowns or decisions not to sleep do not count)?
  2. Is your baby healthy and gaining a steady amount of weight?
  3. Are you content (most of the time – a raging thirst for a glass of prosecco at 11am on a particularly tiring Tuesday is all part and parcel of motherhood)?
  4. Are you feeling supported (by your partner, your friends, your parents, your siblings – whoever your tribe is, are they taking good care of you)?

If the answer to these four simple questions is yes, you’re doing a great job. Put down the hair shirt and guilt-ridden beating stick and pour that glass of wine. You’ve earned it.

 

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The things you didn’t see

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The things you didn’t see

Dear husband,

First of all, high fives on surviving the last couple of months without killing each other! We have successfully kept a small human happy and healthy, and remained relatively sane and content ourselves. Good work, us.

I know it’s been hard, returning to work and leaving us cooing and giggling and warm in our bed. To come home and see the small, but important changes in our little lady. To start to think about first words, first steps and know that these things could happen while you’re in the office. But here’s what you didn’t see…

That first day you left for work? I cried. Not because I couldn’t cope. Not because our daughter was being anything but an angel. But because our newborn bubble had burst and our daughter was already taking those first tentative steps towards growing up. Life was slowly but surely returning to normal. I would miss you by my side for those minute by minute decisions (does she really need changing again? Does that sound like a hungry cry?) and I’d miss your easy, chilled out wit and your warm hugs to get me through the harder weekday moments. Weekends were going to become so much more precious.

You didn’t see me smiling in the middle of the night as our little one fell asleep in my arms and snored, matching the cadence of your snore exactly. I swear my heart actually swelled just watching and listening to you both, and realising that quietly but irrevocably, our little family puzzle had already expanded to fit her beautiful little piece.

You didn’t see me staring at her as she stretched and yawned (and normally, farted) waking from her nap, and welling up because she looked so much like you trying to wake yourself up in the morning.

You didn’t see me clock-watching as it approached 6.15pm and I knew you were on your way to the front door. Again, not because I wanted to hand her over like a ticking time bomb but because when you step in the door, our family feels whole again. Between 5pm and 6pm I’m genuinely excited – it’s the same feeling I used to get at 5pm on a Friday afternoon, knowing that ‘our time’ could begin.

Mainly, you didn’t see how much you mean to me and to our daughter. How our relationship has changed but for the better, since having her. How grateful I am to have such an awesome partner (not a sidekick, not a ‘helper’, but a partner) in this adventure. And finally, how excited I get thinking about all the things you’re going to show her and teach her, as you carry on being the greatest dad she could wish for.

We love you,

Me and Miss R xxx

The arrival and the aftermath

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So it’s taken a while to share this here, but our little bundle finally made an appearance!

Only 3 days late, little miss R arrived on 8 July after something of a tricky labour, by emergency C-section. She’s happy and healthy and we’ve spent the last 5 weeks adjusting to life as a family of three.

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She’s absolutely beautiful, and as anyone who has read my blog previously will know, very much wanted; but life as new parents is tough and I wanted to share a few of our lessons.

Before I do, I also wanted to say a very specific thank you. We attended NCT classes prior to having our daughter and it was the best thing we ever did. Not only for the information and guidance, but for the new parent network we’ve since developed. My husband has a group of new dads to talk dad-stuff with, and for me, I’ve got a group of newbie mums muddling along the same way I am.

To those girls – thank you. For the 3am Whatsapp company, the reassurance that my boobs, tears, baby (insert other paranoid concern here) are in fact, normal and nothing to worry about. For the banter, the memes, the TMI, the giggles and the compassion.

I’ve included your pearls of wisdom below. They’ve got me through the last few weeks and I have no doubt you’ll continue to be awesome in the months and years to come.

It’s OK if it’s crap sometimes

I know. I’m a terrible mother. I should be beatifically smiling and glowing because I have a gorgeous little bundle of joy. Only she isn’t always joyous, and I’m not always smiling. Between hormones and sleep deprivation and that piercing newborn cry, it can be bloody hard work. You’ll cry, you’ll get fed up, you’ll yearn for your pre-baby life sometimes. I categorically ADORE my little girl. But that doesn’t mean I don’t find motherhood a challenge.

NCT advice: It’s all a phase. Babies go through growth spurts and developmental leaps and changes all the time. Breathe, and remember things will get better soon – this bad day is not forever.

Don’t hate the mirror, hate the game

I hate how I look right now. After a C-section I have what I’m affectionately calling ‘the overhang’. I have stretch marks. I have a permanent scar. I have weird boobs that don’t feel like my own. I rarely have time for make-up. My hair is super-fluffy and uncontrollable. My clothes all make me look like a sausage that’s about to burst out of its skin. The numbers on the scales are far too high for my liking. On top of the sleep deprivation and hormones (see point 1) it makes me want to cry daily.

NCT advice: It took 9 months for your body to grow that baby, give yourself a break and a chance to find your new shape. You won’t look the same anymore – you grew a small human. Be proud of that, and let yourself take time to recover and renew. Happy and healthy is the important thing.

Fed is best

There is so much wonderful advice and support out there for breastfeeding mothers. And on the whole, it’s really well-intentioned and really helpful. However, in some cases there is a fine line between support and pressure. My daughter took her sweet time to regain her birth weight. Cue worried noises from the health visitor, despite her behaviour, nappies etc all pointing towards a very healthy little lady. I therefore trundled off to a number of breastfeeding support groups and followed advice about latching (which she was fine at), positioning (no, I do not want to try to hold my daughter like a rugby ball in the middle of the night), and lactation aids (imagine McDonalds straws taped to your boobs, next to your nipples while you wear a bottle of formula/expressed milk around your neck like a cowbell). She still didn’t gain weight, so I continued to breastfeed (no cowbell contraption – I drew the line) and topped up with  a small bottle of formula after each feed. She put on 10.5oz in a week.

NCT advice: Breast is great, and if it works for you to exclusively breastfeed, seriously well done because it’s not easy and it’s a brilliant thing to do. But honestly? Fed is best. Our NCT group feed a variety of formula, combination and breastfeeding and all of our babies are thriving.

Trust your gut

Nope, not another reference to my post-baby body but a seriously important point. You will receive soooooo much advice from people – family, friends, professionals. And unfortunately, it won’t all tally up. You’ll feel lost in a sea of feeding on demand, co-sleeping, poo-splosions, bottles, colic, wind, soothing, dummies and more. Everyone knows what’s best for your baby…except they don’t.

NCT advice: In the immortal words of one of the NCT girls, Mammy and Daddy know best.  Do what feels right – pick and choose the advice that feels like the best thing for your child and your family. As long as your child is fed, rested, safe and healthy – you’re doing it right.

 

So to any sleep deprived, tearful, bemused new parents reading this, you’re doing an ace job. Stop beating yourself up – look at your little one and remember why you did this. Think about all the ‘firsts’ you have to look forward to – the first smile, the first laugh, the first steps, the first birthday and Christmas, starting school. You have a million happy moments ahead of you and you will get through this period like a champ – you have an army of parents behind you, cheering you on and holding you up.

Weirdly and wonderfully ‘with child’

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Weirdly and wonderfully ‘with child’

Pregnancy is such a odd time. Millions of women have written or spoken about ‘the things no-one tells you’, so this is just general rambling about some of the very weird (and often wonderful) things I’ve experienced since being pregnant.

1 Random touching

This one’s well documented, but I have had the most bizarre selection of people just stroke my stomach without so much as a ‘how are you?’.

If I encountered someone who told me their eye surgery had gone well, I wouldn’t stroke my hand over their eyes in a ‘go to sleep’ style movement; nor would any other sane person. And yet, apparently, baby bumps are exempt from this general rule of touching etiquette.

I’m certain all mums feel the same, but I’m incredibly protective of the bump. It’s precious, and ours, and (and this is, you’d imagine, the most obvious point) part of my body. Please ask before you reach out to touch it (particularly if I barely know you in the first place). And if I say no, regardless of how well you know me, please accept that it’s based on how I’m feeling, not you.

2 Friendly faces

Since being noticeably pregnant, people have been so kind. I dropped my parking ticket the other day, but before I could begin the slow descent (and inevitably difficult ascension back to full height), a random stranger had picked it up for me with an understanding smile.

Various retail staff have asked when the baby’s due and finished our transaction with a ‘congratulations’ or ‘good luck’.

People smile at me more – pregnant women in particular have been very un-British and actually made eye contact and started conversations in waiting rooms. It was a little disconcerting at first, if I’m honest.

3 Everyone knows better

As first time parents, we’re under no illusions – we have lots to learn, and no matter how organised, we’ll never be ready for the huge change that’s coming. Nonetheless, we didn’t emerge from an alien pod only days ago with no knowledge of the human family.

We’re certainly not too proud to ask for help or advice, but when we describe the midwife’s most recent observations/guidance, we don’t expect a random relative or friend to launch into an unasked-for and opinionated diatribe about how the midwife is wrong. They are, of course, human and susceptible to mistakes, but they’re also the experts.

Every pregnancy is different, everyone’s medical history is different, and guidance and advice changes annually – my midwife knows both me, our baby, and the up to date clinical guidance best.

4 Sticks and stones

Your throwaway observation that ‘Ooooh I was much bigger than you by this point, haven’t you got a small bump?’ brought me to tears later that day. It weighed on my mind, had me googling like a good’un, and worrying that my much-wanted baby wasn’t growing right. All this, despite knowing from regular midwife appointments that things are right on track.

I know that nothing is meant maliciously, but just think about the impact on an anxious, tired, hormone-ridden first time mum before casually declaring that their pregnancy is noticeably abnormal (in your humble opinion). Instead, tell them they’re looking good, ask how long they’ve got left, share your funny pregnancy stories.

5 Love and understanding

I recently went on a hen weekend in Liverpool. When we originally booked the weekend, I wasn’t yet pregnant. So despite loving the bride and wanting to be involved, a part of me was dreading being away from my husband for the weekend, and worrying about being boring and sober and tired, and a big fat burden on the other girls.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Women I’m close to but also women I’d never met before picked my suitcase up to carry it upstairs, gave up their seats, and checked on me. One of my fellow bridesmaids made sure soft drinks and mocktails were part of the activities she’d planned so I wasn’t left out, and I laughed and chatted and thoroughly enjoyed myself all weekend.

My point is, my worrying was unfounded. Throughout my pregnancy people have understood that I’m tired, not judged when we leave a meal/gathering/party earlier than we would have done a few months ago, but also continued to treat me like me.

So I guess, in summary:

  • Don’t touch me without asking (this is, you’d think, an obvious request)
  • The world is kinder than you think
  • Trust your instincts (and your midwife)
  • Be sensitive in your observations (and pregnant superheroes, try not to get too upset about clumsy comments)
  • Your people/tribe will always understand

 

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