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the sleep thief's mother

surviving life with a new baby

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Motivation

“A plague o’ both your houses” AKA Chicken Pox Week!

So last Friday I strolled into work with that “I totally bossed this week” feeling, deadlines met, child safely delivered to nursery on time every day, despite the fact that I’m temporarily a single-mum all week long with the Mr away, only to receive a call from said nursery saying the little man has chicken pox, can I come get him now!

“Bugger!” I thought! Not only is he ill and I’ve only been in work for 12 seconds today, but also “How did I miss that?” and “Nursery must think I don’t even look at him!” Followed by oodles of mum guilt and cursing my stupidity and crazy driving to get back to my poor sick baby who was happily infecting everyone else’s child while he waited! Bad Mummy!!!! 

However. I then got to nursery. The little man was running around in a circle, happy as Larry. “Mummy!” he screams! This is not the face of an ill child! His lovely keyworker proceeds to lift my baby’s shirt to show me 3 extremely small, and I mean extremely small, pinkish dots no bigger than a pinhead under his arm. At this point I’m thinking “you dragged me out of work for this!” But they insist it’s chicken pox so I take the little faker home and let him watch tele all day, cos, you know, he’s ill and that’s what you do!

Needless to say, I now bow down to the vigilance, experience and general awesomeness of my nursery, they’re amazing. It’s why I love them. Fast forward 3 days and the poor little bugger looks like something out of a horror film. Scabs and sores all over him, can’t sleep, won’t eat, won’t rest, so uncomfortable. Then I find out there is a vaccine for this! Yes, UK mums, I repeat, there is a vaccine for this! Only apparently the NHS don’t deem it necessary, so we don’t get it. Australia, America, basically all developed countries vaccinate against this horrid desease but for some reason the U.K. decide to make it some sort of sadistic rite of passage that we all have to go through! Well, I can tell you for free that if I ever am blessed with any more offspring they will be vaccinated, even if I have to pay for it privately, which sadly is currently the way.

So, we’re dispensing calpol and piriton every 4 hours, taking bicarbonate of soda baths and applying calamine cream, alongside as much fluid as I can get in him and as much cake as he wants, it’s a long process, the road to recovery looks paved with scratching. Any suggestions on how to relieve the itch particularly on the hard to cream hairline would be great!

Anyway, the joys of being home with a sick, itchy toddler who hates sleep and is banned from nursery til he scabs over is that I can’t go to work! However, I quite like my job and I’m actually very busy right now, so I look after the spotty one all day, work all night to make up the time and then do it all over again and again and again! But such is life, right? Welcome to parenting. Would I change it……umm, well maybe I would have paid for the vaccine.

Until next week then…..keep your fluids and your chins up!

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The Pressure of the perfect day

So, today was bank holiday, gloriously sunny and unfortunately the last time you’ll get a long weekend if you work full time, until Christmas! Yeah, suck on that one for a while, depressing huh?

Anyway, weekends normally mean quality family time for me and my boys, we eat out, go to the beach, go to soft play, take trips to new places, have picnics, visit family for barbecues, you know, all that kind of stuff.

Today, however, I woke up feeling kind of queasy, just generally run down and a bit headachey all day. The last thing I wanted was to be out in the sun around lots of people. But honestly, all day I don’t know what’s been bugging me more, the fact that I felt crappy or the fact that I was doing nothing special with my little one. The guilt of doing nothing special when you work full time is huge. I basically vegged out in front of the tele while his dad worked extremely hard to catch up on house work and keep our son amused all day.

But now I’ve put the baby to bed, kissed his forehead and tucked him in, I’ve realised all the pressure to be a perfect mum and have amazing perfect family days, comes from me. He doesn’t care if we paid an extortionate amount to travel somewhere fun and paid to get in and eat out, he just loves having fun and spending time with us. He’s still young enough to have no clue about the cost of anything, he only recognises the worth.

I’ve always known that the pressure to be perfect comes from within and that its completely fuelled by our constant insight into other people’s family life through social media. I’m just as guilty as anyone else of instagraming the good bits with the best filters to get the look I want. But I must keep reminding myself that like me, everyone else is cherry picking the good stuff, showing their best side. And that’s fine! That’s as it should be really. I want to remember the fun, the smiles, the giggles, but it doesn’t mean that the tantrums and fights don’t happen.

So, if you let the kids amuse themselves today while you did nothing so that you’re rested to go back to work, good for you! If you planned a family trip and made memories with your kids, great. If you dropped the kids with grandma and spent the weekend reconnecting with your partner, well done!

Not every day is worthy of Instagram. But you’ll always remember the ones that were.

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Off-grid parenting: Whatever next?

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So, I don’t often use my blog as a platform for my personal judgements, or at least, I try not to. But something in the parenting world came to light today that I’ve never heard of before and honestly, I feel very “judgey” about it.

Now. In the interest of trying to be objective and not a complete asshole, I’ve since done a little research, but I’m still bloody baffled.

This Morning on ITV’s much loved magazine show aptly titled “This Morning” there was a couple named Adele and Matt Allen who call themselves Off-Grid Parents. They have two children and have currently set up a funding page asking the British public to donate ¬£100,000 to them so that they can take the whole family to Costa Rica to live a self sufficient life at one with nature. So far, it makes sense right? Only, there’s way more to it.

Off-Grid parenting, as well as a need to be self sufficient and close to the earth also apparently involves denying your children basic medical care, shoes, education, friends, the list goes on! Ok, you can probably sense my view on it already, can you?

Off-gridding is the idea that you don’t need the standard system to raise your kids. No doctors, no schools, just the family unit. That’s not entirely unheard of and I’m sure has it’s merits. So the Allen’s children have never been immunised, again, there are pros and cons to immunising. I’m all for it, but I get where people are coming from. The Allen’s children don’t wear shoes so they can feel life through their feet (ūüė≥ even though both parents have shoes on in all their videos!) The Allen’s children are home schooled only interacting with their parents who claim “there is no need for them to be able to read and write” The Allen’s children all sleep in one big bed with their parents (which begs the question when did you conceive the second one if you never leave your child and you all sleep together ūüôą) If the Allen’s children get ill they are given herbs and vegetables and reassured that their bodies will heal themselves! The Allen’s children have no routine, no bed time, no discipline, no social interaction with other kids, no friends, no shoes, no bedrooms, no independence. Oh, and they are still breastfed…..at age 5.

Now. I’m not saying that we all have to raise our kids the same way, that’s not what I’m about. But if you don’t belive in shoes then why are you wearing them mum and dad? If you don’t believe in formal education and reading and writing skills then how the hell did you learn to fill your blog and Facebook with words? If you believe in self sufficiency then why are you begging for other people’s money to the tune of ¬£100k? If you breastfeed your 5 year old son purely because it maintains the close personal bond you have (her words not mine) then why have you plastered the Internet with pictures of him with your boob in his mouth? If you want to get off the grid then why blog, go on tv, exploit your family and advertise your way of life to every media outlet you can find?

I really wasn’t going to wade into this conversation today, but after watching Adele Allen say in her begging video that parents who use baby sleep training techniques like cry it out are negligent and should be considered to be abusing their child, I couldn’t hold my tongue.

Two words Adele and Matt Allen

Pot. Kettle.

You might also find it interesting that at the time of writing this, their funding page stands at a whopping £47

ūüėā

The top 10 things to pack in your hospital bag for labour

There’s so much to think about when you pack your hospital bag. Things for you, the baby, your partner, it soon adds up and you can find yourself overpacking very easily. When I went in it looked like I’d packed for a 3 week cruise and I hardly used any of it. Hopefully the below list will help you (and me if I ever have another baby!) from making that mistake too!

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  1. Stuff for your boobs

So, you got pregnant. Your belly got big. Did your boobs get big too? Mine got massive and I loved it and so did my boyfriend. But once you have your baby, your boobs feel about as sexy and sensual as a trip to the dentist. They start doing weird things like leaking and they’re sore every time you breathe! Don’t worry, it doesn’t last long but you will need a few bits to get you through it. Breast pads are a must unless you want to start squirting people in the eye like a lactating clown. Tops and bras that are soft but supportive and allow you easy access. Oh and nipple cream (the good stuff, something with lanolin in it should do the trick) and nipple guards so you can carry on breast feeding even if you do get sore.

2. Stuff for your lady parts

No one really wants to talk or think about the damage that is done to your precious vajayjay, but it happens. Now, don’t panic, just like your boobs, your lady garden will completely recover, it’ll just need a little¬†TLC to get there. Comfy knickers are a must, either throwaway paper ones or big soft cotton ones you don’t mind ruining. Obviously, you’re gonna need maternity pads, the ones with the healing Aloe Vera in are nice – but my top tip is wet toilet paper. You know, the flushable kind that are basically baby wipes for your bits. Trust me when I say you will not want dry hospital toilet paper going anywhere near you for a while, the wet stuff is so much kinder to you plus you’ll feel much cleaner.

3. Clothes for you

Do not make the mistake of thinking that you’ll have this baby and need a smaller size in your nightwear instantly, it’s not gonna happen and you will want to be extremely comfortable after birth without anything tight or clingy. So, think about what you want to give birth in – for me it was just my bra, absolutely zero f*cks were given by me about what I looked like once labour started,¬†but you might be different. So, something you don’t care about ruining for actual labour, a couple of nightshirts or pyjamas to wear in hospital, warm socks and slippers¬†as you won’t be moving much and your feet get cold, maybe a dressing gown if it’s the colder months and¬†loose fitting clothes to wear home.

4. Clothes for baby

This is a little trickier as you don’t know what size baby will be or how long you’ll need to stay in with them. However, all being well with you and baby most of us are looking at a night or two in hospital. So baby will need two or three sleepsuits and vests, a hat, some scratch mits and a nice outfit for the trip home (include a coat in this if it’s cold out) You’ll also need muslin’s for milk spills, lots of newborn nappies (as many as 12 a day, they really are sh*t machines at this age!) bottles if you’ve decided not to breastfeed, a dummy if you’ve chosen to use it and some cotton wool.

5. Clothes for your partner

Some hospitals have private rooms where your partner can stay with you and if you’re like us you could have to stay up to a week! Our unexpected long stay meant that my poor boyfriend had nothing he needed with him. So even if you’re not anticipating a week long stay its best to bring him some fresh pants, socks,¬†tee’s and a jumper. If nothing else it’ll stop him having to go home all the time to get more clothes. Even if you go straight to the ward and he can’t stay, labour is a messy, sweaty business for which the father of your child probably deserves a clean shirt to wear home.

6. Cosmetics

Once baby arrives you’ll want to take the longest shower you’ve ever had so obviously shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, whatever else you need. Hospitals are often air conditioned so I found my lips got dry and I went through lip balm like nobody’s business. Also my hair got on my nerves a lot so a brush and hair bands were essential for me. Toothbrush, toothpaste and hand cream as well as a towel and you should be set.

7. Snacks

You might not want to eat at all, or you might be ravenous from start to finish. Remember breast feeding can make you very hungry too, so healthy (or unhealthy, it’s¬†up to you!) snacks are a great idea. Also remember that if you do have to stay in for a little while, that the hospital will cater for you but not your partner, my poor boyfriend lived on Starbucks and Canteen food for a week, bless him.

8. Distractions

You might be one of those focused, hypno-birthing types who can concentrate on the pain and your breathing and channel your energy into your labour. Me, I just wanted the baby out and not too much damage done, so having music and playlists on our laptop, phones and speakers was a godsend to me. Gave me something to do, sparked conversations that weren’t about how dilated I was and passed the time. Plus, once baby’s here you’ll be knackered but they will sleep for a while at a time,¬†so a magazine, book, kindle etc, whatever you need to feel a bit normal.

9. Techy stuff

It seems obvious, but this moment is going to change your life forever and you will want to let everyone know that your little bundle has finally arrived as well as documenting that tiny newborn as much as possible. So, phones, cameras and camcorders (GoPro’s, Ipad’s etc whatever format you use) as well as chargers for them all, are essential. You won’t want to miss a moment and you’ll treasure every image to look back on.

10.  A positive attitude

If I can do it, you can do it. It really is mind over matter. Your baby got in there and it’s gotta come out. There is no badge of honour in going pain relief free and no shame in getting an epidural, an elective C-section or taking whatever drugs you can get your hands on. As long as you’ve researched all the pro’s and con’s of all the choices you can make in labour and you know what you’re happy with, then that’s what’s right for you. When I found out that I couldn’t have a water birth 4 weeks before baby was due, I freaked out, could not stop crying! Ridiculous really because the moment I held him it didn’t matter if I was on a bed, on the floor, in the water or on the moon, he was the only thing I cared about. And whatever happens, it’s a few days discomfort traded for¬†immeasurable¬†joy for life.

Believe me, it’s worth it. Good Luck xxx

A new mums review of the first year

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On December 4th 2014, I gave birth to my first baby, my beautiful, healthy, bouncing baby boy. As most new mums can understand I was dazed and confused, sore and uncomfortable, completely emerged in hormones and emotions and so have very little memory of that first precious christmas. Consequently this Christmas has really felt like our first as a family. He’s seen his first christmas tree, met his first santa, opened his first presents and we’ve begun our first traditions as a family of our own. It’s really made me nostalgic for his first year, so much has happened. He’s now unrecognisable from the skinny little, puffy eyed newborn baby we had last Christmas. So this is Seth’s (and my) first year in review.

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December to February 0 – 3 Months

In the first few months I was permanently in a state of feeling freaked out and scared shitless I was going to break him somehow. I left the house very rarely, showered even less often and cried more than is possible without severe dehydration setting in. The house was a mess, I was a mess. Seth fed every few hours sometimes every half an hour, day and night. Everyone was exhausted. I honestly thought people who had more than one child must have a mental Illness and, I truly think that if he hadn’t of smiled early at 5 weeks old and shown me just that little bit of interaction, I would have cracked. Seth learned how to open his eyes and smile and that’s about it. Slow start for him.

March to May 4 – 6 months

So, in March we started to venture outside. We enrolled in a baby play group and a baby music class, baby swimming classes, met other local mums and babies, started to get into a comfortable routine and the feeling of fear in the pit of my stomach gave way to pride and love for my little baby. During this time Seth started sleeping through the night for 12 hours straight, cut his first teeth, learned to laugh out loud and squeal and by the time we got to May could even sit up unaided, roll in both directions and had tried his first ever solid food.

June to August 7 – 9 months

Summer brought commando style crawling followed by full scale proper crawling for Seth, which meant baby proofing everything, mild panic and a feeling of not being ready for this at all! But it also meant that Seth could properly play and engage with you, he had long, regular naps, would eat anything you put in front of him, laughed at everything, slept all night, cut his first 4 teeth without even a whinge….. I mean I could go on! He was perfect, it was our hay days, the best summer of my life. I know I’m laying it on thick but I really did feel like I was kicking motherhoods ass, that’s why the next section was such a shock……

September to November 10 – 12 months

In September we went on our first family holiday down to Cornwall. Seth was at that adorable wobbly but walking round the sofa stage and we all enjoyed some much needed sunshine. Then this happened…

WALKING!! I cannot stress to anyone how unprepared for this I was! I was like “oh we’ve already baby proofed, he’ll be fine!” I was so wrong. My giant baby could reach everything! Walking round the furniture quickly gave way to full scale running, running into everything, like walls, doors, me!! The kid was and still is a menace on two legs, looking after him is exhausting. But to go with all this, Seth learned to clap his hands, started eating whole solid food like entire sandwiches, bananas, muffins!! He can climb, can say mum, dad, car, ta and nanny. He can tickle you, can point to what he wants, feed himself his own drinks and bottles, knows his own mind and can throw a tantrum that puts even my unreasonable streak to shame.

So basically, I blinked and he was big. That’s how I feel, it was all over in an instant, I can’t remember if I enjoyed it enough, was I too worried about whether I was doing a good job to enjoy it properly? Perhaps. But the bits I do remember, the wakeful nights full of cuddles in the small hours, his tiny fingers gripping mine, his first laugh, the inner pride I got when he achieved a milestone, all those memories will never leave me. I recall them clearly and I enjoyed them immeasurably.

So here’s to another year. Age 1 to 2, with all its new triumphs and challenges. He’s not a baby any more that’s for sure, but although I don’t want to wish it away I cannot wait to find out and watch what kind of little boy he becomes. Thank you 2015 for being the year I finally experienced what it’s like to be a mum, for my little boy is certainly my greatest achievement.

My first week as a working mother

What a difference a week makes. My carefree maternity existence is well and truly over. Now juggling three jobs and a baby who I miss terribly in full time nursery with household chores, a neurotic dog, a partner I barely see and ten hours of commuting a week makes me long for trips to the park and coffee morning play dates. I’ve only been back at work a week and I can honestly say that if nursery wasn’t so expensive I’d be popping out another baby already, just to get another year off (and secretly because I’d love to do it all again!)

This week has highlighted to me how modern life’s perception that women can have it all and do it all, is entirely counter productive because of the pressure it loads onto women to do just that. I genuinely thought that after I had my baby I’d want to return to work but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Every shred of me wants to be with him all the time, literally every second I can. But, it’s almost assumed now that women who work or have forged a career for themselves will return to work, usually full time as if nothing has happened (bloody equal rights!) Of course, financially most of us need to return to full time work and our hands are forced on the matter. But the amount of people who, even when Seth was only a few months old, would say to me “when are you back at work?” was astounding. I never realised how much having a baby would change me, but it did, it’s just a shame that it couldn’t change my lifestyle.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are probably millions of women who couldn’t wait to return to work for lots of valid reasons: personal identity, adult conversation, finances, boredom, loneliness – I could go on and on. Feeling any or all of these and choosing to go back to work does not make you any more or less of a mother than those who choose to stay at home. In fact, although women who choose to stay home face all the above problems, women who choose to work face them and all new ones too (guilt being the worst! They don’t tell you about the perpetual guilt in ante-natal classes do they!!) I keep telling myself that I’m hopefully raising somebody’s husband and somebody’s father and that I want that eventual Man to respect a woman’s right to choose her own path without prejudice or assumption.

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If going back to work has taught me one thing it’s that the little time I have with him has to count. The second I’m through the door, I’m on the floor reading and singing and playing with him. The relationship with my partner has changed into a well oiled house keeping, child rearing machine, pre planning meals, money and events to the minute (How long we can maintain this military state remains to be seen!) Everything has changed and will continue to change. But the continuous constant in our lives is our love for our little boy and our need to do what’s best for him. It’s a personal choice for our family and it should be a choice every family and every woman can make without assumption or pressure. ¬†All I can say is that I’m sorry for all those times I took being off work for granted, complained to people that I was bored at home, got stressed with the baby playing up and assumed that those endless hours of fun would go on and on. Now I find myself flying up and down the motorway desperately trying to claw back a few short hours a day. But it’s worth it. It’s made me appreciate the smile on his face when I walk through the door. It’s made us plan events to experience things with him and make memories, like our trip to the fireworks yesterday, the first he’s ever seen. And I may not be there every morning or afternoon, but I’m always there when he wakes up, I’m always there when he goes to bed. And when he’s grown and towers over me, I hope he understands why we did things the way we did and that we may have been short on time, but we were never short on love.

Reality Bites – How going back to work can really suck!

So it’s late afternoon, we’ve had a little play with various toys that baby has played with a million times before and he starts rubbing his eyes, so that’s my cue to grab a bottle. He chugs down 8 ounces like a trooper and I pop “In the Night Garden” on the tv and we cuddle until he looks a little drowsy, the same way we do several times every day and then it hits me….like a meteor out of the blue….

In a few weeks I’ll be back at work and someone else will be doing all of this for him – every day.

I won’t be there to smell his hair as we cuddle up. I won’t be there to tell him it’s sleepy time and cover his bare little toes with a blanky so he sleeps soundly. I won’t be there to kiss his chubby cheeks as I lay him down into his cot for a nap. Someone else will do all of this, someone who is, at this moment in time, a stranger to both of us.

I suddenly realise that all this separation anxiety I have been worrying about IS going to be a massive problem. I have been passing the baby round to friends and relatives, taking him to play dates, soft play, music groups and baby play groups to ensure that he’s confident, well socialised and not at all clingy. I’ve been planning ahead, trying to make the transition easy on him like all good responsible mothers do and holy fuck – I forgot about myself!

It’s me who is going to fall apart, it’s me who is going to miss him so much it hurts – it’s me for gods sake! How the hell did I miss this? No one tells you that!! In truth, I am what most people would refer to as slightly emotionally stunted and so I thought I would never be as attached to him as I am. But the truth is, I have forgotten to prepare myself. I don’t spend any time away from him, I never leave him with anyone but his dad and even then not for longer than a few hours, so I am more attached and in love with him than I ever thought possible. How dare reality come along and burst this beautiful little bubble I live in, just me and him all day long – it’s bloody unfair.

Ok, breathe. I’m going to have to woman up here!

I am going to remind myself why I am going back to work. 1) Great role model for working, ambitious women and I want my son to respect women’s equality to choose a career and be treated equally. 2) Oh god, I’m going to miss him! No, stay focused, ok 2) I enjoyed my job before the baby and need to have adult conversations and be challenged again. 3) Who am I kidding!

Pass the wine!

I’m going to enjoy the next 5 weeks with my baby, really enjoy them. In fact i’m going to make the most of them, make some memories and when I have to go back to work and reality, i’ll face it head on with strength and confidence.

But for now, I might just watch him sleep while I still can.

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