Love & Fear

One of the biggest things to change in my life since embarking on this wonderfully wondrous parenthood journey is the sudden, powerful and quite overwhelming introduction of FEAR. 

Before becoming pregnant, I – like most people – felt pretty immortal. I was young (ish!), healthy and happy. I had no real fears. I was a bit of a stress head, probably verged on being classed as a worrier, but I wouldn’t say I was massively SCARED of anything. I brushed off newspaper headline scaremongering and war threats, I took the chance and dashed across the road when the tram was looming, I smoked the odd cigarette and ate crap at weekends, the usual. 

When I discovered I was pregnant, the feeling of immortality dropped off me like a stone into a river. And as my baby and my belly grew, I was suddenly scared of everything. Everything. As well as being occasionally crippled with fear that I’d eaten something forbidden or slept on my wrong side, I also felt really vulnerable for the first time in my life. I’d be overly careful when walking home from work to make sure I didn’t walk down any backstreets and I even felt slightly suspicious of any unsavoury looking characters in the city in case they wanted to do me (or mainly my baby) any harm. I hope I’m not sounding like a complete lunatic here! The rational side of my brain always kicked in and luckily my fears didn’t spill over too much so they affected my life, but even so – it was a strange new feeling to suddenly become untrusting of the world. As my baby wriggled and kicked inside me, I also knew in my bones that I would have done anything, absolutely anything to protect it. 

My friends all told me that the feeling of love for your baby was incredibly beautiful and overwhelming – which was true – but nobody warned me about the fear which followed! Consequently, I’ve had conversations with many of my mummy friends who feel exactly the same way – one of them summed it up perfectly when she said that having a baby “made you take your heart out of your chest and wear it forever on your sleeve.”

When Little J was born, I did find the first few weeks pretty crazy. I loved it, absolutely loved it, and I loved him so so much right from the first second, but sometimes irrational fears would creep into my brain and I’d be extra extra careful when say, straightening my hair, just in case I dropped them and they somehow bounced up and touched the baby. I was far too scared to leave J sleeping in his Moses basket and go for a shower in case he cried or choked and I didn’t hear him. I also wanted one of us, myself or my husband, to be awake with the baby all the time, so I used to make poor Mr Muddle stay up until 4am with J so I could get a few hours sleep!  I mentioned this to be health visitor and she told my husband to keep an eye on me as this could be one indicator that I may develop PND, but luckily I kicked myself into touch and the more irrational fears melted away eventually. I know not all mummies are so lucky so I’m very thankful for this. 

As well as being more fearful (although I must say, this is improving and I’m beginning to feel slightly more back to normal), I also want to cry for the world most days. All of a sudden, homeless people aren’t just a bit sad to me, they are someone’s children. Someone lost at sea in the Pacific is somebody’s son. Any world tragedy affects babies. It’s cripplingly sad, it occasionally makes me want to run off with my family to a remote Scottish island with no internet connection or newspapers (although I think I’d miss Facebook too much πŸ˜‰ ). 

I think (well, I hope!) that these feelings are part and parcel of being a parent. I suppose the overwhelming love and incredible protective instincts towards our babies are part of our DNA and inbuilt into our genetic make-up since prehistoric times. 

As my Little J nears his first birthday, I must say that life, and my brain, does feel more “normal” again – but I also know that my life has changed forever. ο»Ώ

ο»ΏWhat about you mummies? Did you have similar thoughts or was your experience different? I’d be very interested to hear your perspectives… 


Single Mother Ahoy

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The Muddle-Through Guide to Weaning

Hey mamas.

Weaning is a tricky journey. Although there are a million and one books and websites telling you how to do it, babies are all so completely different it’s essentially down to you and your beloved squidgy one to muddle along this unexplored path together.

My Little J has just gone ten months old now, and eats three square meals most days (as well as a few breastfeeds obvs, being the boob monster that he is!). I’ve weaned him on a mixture of spoon-fed meals and baby-led finger foods, proving that a combination of the two methods is entirely possible (and works quite well, I think).

When i was pregnant, I was kindly given two books – one copy of Annabel Karmel’s Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner (signed and presented to me by the lovely Annabel herself!), and one copy of The Baby Led Weaning Cookbook. During those long four-hour marathon breastfeeds in the early days, I read both books voraciously and I decided quite early on that I might give a combination approach a go.

Spoon-feeding babies with purΓ©es and the like is pretty easy and you know what they’re eating and how much they’re getting, but baby-led does have many advantages and I liked the ethos behind letting them become masters of their own destiny, food-wise. They eat until they are full and stop when they want to – and they generally learn to be much less fussy (apparently, anyway!). They also learn how to chew rather than just swallow, and they get used to lots of different textures.

When we started our weaning journey, I always found it interesting to read what other real-life mummies fed their babies, and what a typical “food day” looked like to them. So, here are my experiences for you to read. I’m certainly no expert though, but this is what we did, so if any of it gives you any ideas or inspiration, then that is just grand!

Here’s a brief history of our story so far…

From six – seven months
I started weaning J just before he was six months old. He developed an interest in food and seemed ready to me. I gave him baby rice once, and then didn’t bother again as it looked a bit rubbish! I moved straight on to porridge in the mornings. I gave him just breakfast for a few weeks, before progressing to giving him a little something at dinner time too.

From seven – eight months
I kept up the porridge for breakfast, and introduced first-tastes style foods for dinner – home-made roasted butternut squash purΓ©e was his absolute favourite. He started trying bits of my lunch too, things like toast, sandwich fingers, cucumber and tomato slices (or even bits of cake on occasion!) It was lovely to see him getting to grips with feeding himself (although mildly terrifying at first!) He didn’t take long to get the hang of it though – buttered toast fingers went down a treat. As did the cake (takes after his mum).

From eight months – present
From around eight months old, J has been eating three proper meals a day (although once, for two weeks, he refused all foods apart from mashed banana. The health visitor told me that the canny little beggar had realised that, if he held out, he would be rewarded with his favourite food – which was, is and probably always will be – banana. Monkey!)

Here are some pick-n-mix examples of his current meals to give you a few ideas…

Breakfast;
Banana porridge with whole milk
Weetabix with whole milk
Scrambled egg and toast fingers
Toast with strawberry jam

Lunch
Home-made egg mayo sandwich fingers and cucumber sticks
Wholemeal pitta fingers with houmous and red pepper sticks
Cheese on toast (or, let’s be honest, Costa Coffee Mozzerella and Pesto paninis) πŸ™‚

Dinner Continue reading

Valentine’s Gifts for Mommas

Hi ladies (and gentlemen),

This post has taken me absolutely ages to write, because as a rule, my husband and I don’t bother too much with Valentine’s Day. We usually buy each other a card and possibly a jokey, silly present, but it’s my birthday the following week and my husband is convinced that V Day is “a load of commercialised nonsense” anyway (but if he didn’t buy me a card I would actually kill him) πŸ™‚

Since becoming parents though, I do think it’s important to take a teeny tiny bit of time out to treat your other half, because – let’s face it – your relationship or marriage definitely takes a back seat when you have a cute squidgy blob to take care of 24-7 . So, this year I shall endeavour to embrace Valentine’s Day, commercialised or not.

I’m a big fan of well thought out, personal presents rather than the usual flowers and chocs, so here are some idea for gifts for mummies – based entirely on what I’d like to receive as a tired but happy first-time momma.

ASOS vouchers
I don’t know about you but I’ve become an online shopping addict since having my now ten-month-old. I don’t have as much money as I used to, but I’m always on the look-out for a bargain on eBay, ASOS and Zara. Mainly baby clothes though – I’m a sucker for a Breton stripe! An ASOS voucher or gift card would be very lovely to receive, as I could merrily choose some beautiful new shoes or a funky bag just for me (not buying too many actual clothes while I’m still dieting) and not have to worry about spending too much. It’s a pretty easy win for the other half, too.

Posh skincare products
Before having a baby I merrily slapped on several quite pricy skincare products every day, including YSL Youth Liberator Serum (which is uh-mazing!), Eve Lom cleanser and Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. I now use Body Shop Aloe Vera cleanser, and Garnier Moisture Match moisturiser. To be honest, the cheap-and-cheerful items are doing a grand job, but it would be awesome to receive a few little luxuries as gifts, and I’d absolutely love to be treated to some of my old favourites.

A family day out – magical mystery tour!
I love a grand day out, and I think it would be spiffing marvellous to be taken on a “magical mystery” trip. As a mummy, my days are usually well planned in advance and going anywhere is like a military operation – so it would be nice to be removed from the driving seat for once and whisked off somewhere lovely for the day, which had been planned to perfection by the hubby. Think York, with a a trip to a local attraction such as York Minster, lunch somewhere lovely and a river cruise thrown in – all planned around the baby as well, of course. Bliss!

Breakfast in bed – with a lie in πŸ™‚
Ahhhhh what I would do for a lie in! It would be absolutely amazing to be given the luxury of a long, luxurious lie in – with breakfast in bed thrown in at the end. It’s not going to be easy, fellas (or indeed ladies, of course!) Making perfectly crumbly yet soft croissants with chocolate spread and real coffee, whilst looking after the baby/babies, may prove challenging – but if you accept the mission for your lovely lady, I’m pretty sure she will love you forever! It could even be done in a quirky voucher form, allowing the mummy to “cash it in” whenever she needed a few extra zzzz’s.

Family photo session
I live in North Derbyshire, and we have an absolutely fabulous local photographer, Natalie Leech, who specialises in newborn and family photography. She shoots exclusively in natural light and takes families out to local countryside locations for their sessions. Her pictures capture beautiful, natural moments set against a backdrop of rolling hills and meadows. If you are lucky enough to live in the area, do check her out. If not, have a look for local snappers who offer similar shoots. Timeless keepsakes you’ll treasure forever – and a photography session voucher would be a lovely gift to receive on Valentine’s Day. After all, your babies are in your heart now, too πŸ’—

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For even more Valentine’s gift inspiration, check out these fabulous posts from two of my beautiful blogger friends:

Shelley Loves…
https://shelleyloves.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/valentines-day/
Shelley is mummy to Daisy (7) and Bobby (5). She has worked with and loved fashion for a LONG time, and since having children, Shelley has grown to love fashion for little ones even more. Her gorgeous blog shares things that her and her children love and enjoy. Check out ShelleyLoves@wordpress.com

Mamamim
http://bit.ly/1DwvT5A
Mim is a 30something mother and writes for http://www.mamamim.com. She lives between the UK and Australia with her husband and toddler and is expecting her second baby in April 2015. Check out http://www.mamamim.com for weekly pregnancy updates and parenting tips.

Passing on the pearls…

Since becoming a mummy last March, I’ve thought long and hard about the things that I want to teach my Little J, and the wisdom that I want to impart that will (hopefully) go some way to ensuring that he grows up to be a happy, confident and kind person.

It’s quite daunting being a parent. You remember what it was like to be a small child when you hung onto every word that your parents said (before getting older and realising that your mum and dad are only human and were just winging it like the rest of us!). Your parents are the first people that help you to create your mental “maps” of the world, some of which you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life. Although, let’s not forget, we are all still learning, every day.

Even now at 36, I can still remember some of the pearls of wisdom that my parents and grandparents gave me and many of them have, I think, shaped me as a human. I definitely think it’s worth considering carefully the knowledge, ideas and values that you want to pass on to your babies.

With this in mind, here are my top five:

1. Good manners.
It goes without saying really, but nice manners and being polite and courteous are worth their weight in gold. Having worked in restaurants and bars as a teenager and young adult, it’s staggering how many adults can’t be bothered saying please or thank you, and find general politeness beyond them.

My favourite saying is “Be excellent to each other” (thanks to Bill and Ted) and if you think about it, if everyone embraced this simple philosophy the world would be a very beautiful place indeed. This starts with being polite and kind to fellow humans on a day-to-day basis.

2. Do something you LOVE for a job
This is so important when you consider that you’ll be getting up
early in the morning quite literally thousands of times to go to work. Of course jobs are a means to an end for most, and their main function is to make you some moolah so you can do things you enjoy with your favourites, but that doesn’t mean you can’t love what you do for a living.

I used to get the train to work and it’s depressing seeing the same glum faces every morning, clinging onto their flasks and staring mournfully out of the rain-splattered windows. I’ve always envied those folk who enthuse about their jobs and bounce out of bed merrily of a morning, skipping along to jobs and careers that fill them with vigour and vim.

Because of this, I’ll always encourage J to make a career out of something that he loves and has passion for if possible. The main thing is that he’s happy though. If he’s happy working as a mechanic, a quantum physicist or a traffic warden, then that’s good enough for me.

3. The world is a big place. Go and see it.
It fills me with fear to imagine him going to nursery at the moment, let along boarding a place to Fiji, but despite my trepidation I’ll definitely be encouraging my Little J to see as much of the world as he can.

Although there are hundreds upon thousands of places I’ve never been and would like to go, I’m proud of the travelling I have done and – despite the money I’ve spent over the years – I have loved every second of my adventures.

I remember an advert some time ago that said that your eyes capture 100 million images in a lifetime. I suppose I wanted mine to have lots of variety. And travelling is the best education ever – history, cultural studies, languages and geography all at once. So if J wants to do a gap year or trek to Machu Picchu, I’ll definitely be behind him. Maybe I’ll quite literally be behind him, on the next plane. Just to make sure he’s ok πŸ˜‰

4. Don’t be THAT guy.
You know the guys I mean. The ones that drink full bottles of whisky for a dare, the ones that leap from hotel balconies into swimming pools, the ones that take drugs because everyone is doing it and it’s “cool”, the ones that have tattoos in Magaluf when they’re drunk, The idiots. We all know them.

I would like to think I’ll teach my boy to have his own mind, to stick to his guns and not feel the need to do stupid things to impress his mates. To be his own man.

You totally know THAT guy. Don’t you. We all do πŸ™‚

5. Life is hard. But misery is (mostly) optional.
One of my favourite books is The Road Less Travelled, and one of the very first lines in the book, and the “greatest truth”, is that life is difficult. Once you’ve come to terms with that fact, it’s much easier to live it. And, as my title suggests, the misery part is – hopefully – optional.

I hope i can teach my son to tackle life’s issues and dilemmas with humour, with strength and with kindness, and I hope he knows I’ll be there with him – every step of the way.

Beautwins

Be Brave, Be Bold

This year is full of unknowns for me. Rather than starting the year (as usual) with a regular job, no babies to depend on me and my ass in size ten skinny jeans, I’m kicking it off unemployed, decidedly fatter than usual and with a nine month old baby boy who cries if I leave the room and sleeps with his hands on my face so he knows where I am.

Because of this, I have decided that my mantra for life is this:

BE BRAVE, BE BOLD

I keep repeating this to myself when I think about all the things I’m going to do that may be challenging. The main things are…

Little J going to nursery
From April, when I officially finish my planned maternity leave, I’m aiming to put Little J in daycare for two or three days a week. I’ve found a nursery that allows complete flexibility in terms of days and hours, which is perfect as my husband works different shift patterns every week.

If I’m honest. I’m completely bricking it about J going to nursery! Mainly because I’ve never actually been apart from him for longer than a couple of hours, and I’ll more than likely miss his little face so much that it hurts to even think about it. Also, there are a few things I need to sort out before he goes – notably his sleep patterns and his co-sleeping with me, and his ongoing bottle and cup refusal. Most mummies tell me that these things seem to iron themselves out when they start daycare, especially the cup feeding. Regardless though, I’m terrified – especially seeing as Little J has become very clingy of late and sometimes cries if I go into the kitchen! Words of wisdom and comfort definitely welcome… πŸ™‚

Going it alone in business…
Next, after a decade working for the same company, I’ve taken voluntary redundancy and I’m going it alone as a freelance PR lady and copy writer. l’ll be honest, I sway from being massively excited and giddy as a kipper about this, to being gripped with fear about my lack of pension/holiday pay/regular money etc – especially with a young baby to look after (and more to come hopefully!). When the negative thoughts creep in, I’ve taken to repeating my new positive mantra over and over again in my head and re-reading Louise L Hay’s teachings about attracting good things to you (check out You Can Heal Your Life – spectacular read). I’ve got a few ideas though and some potential irons in the fire, I’m just praying that this time next year I’ll be doing well and be amazingly glad and grateful that I finally took the leap.

Getting back in shape…
After almost 18 months of being a porker, I’ve decided that enough is enough, and rather than just staring at my lovely teeny dresses and drainpipe Levi’s, I’m going to be bloody well sporting them upon my person by April. It’s my own fault. I was the one that decided that a positive pregnancy test was also a licence to eat for England (baby wanted pizza, and Thai green curry, and Greggs cheese pasties) and I am also responsible for eating most of the cakes in the world since starting mat leave. I now need to undo this gluttony and get my ass in gear. And my mummy tummy. And my…entire body.

I went to Pizza Express today and had a superfood salad with chicken and no dressing. Have you any idea how hard it was not to order a Fiorentina with a dippy egg and extra Parma ham? Hmmm?! I want to cry just thinking about this travesty.

But hey! I’m doing it. I’m in gear. I aim to shrink. Watch this space.

So there we go. What’s your mantra for 2015?

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When birth plans go askew – My birth story

As a new mummy of 35 years young, I’ve heard many a birth tale over the years. I used to love listening to my stepmum tell her three birth stories, hooting with laughter at her memories of 25 students taking it in turns to peer up her cervix, and of grabbing her first husband round the throat when he dared to suggest (mid-contraction) that she might not want any pethodene. I was gripped from an early age.

When it was my turn and I found out I was pregnant, I couldn’t wait to experience labour and childbirth. I felt it almost my birthright to go through this important step of womanhood and I honestly felt no fear at all. I wanted my birth story.

Weeks into my pregnancy, I met up with my lovely friend, Mama Mim, who was visiting from sunny Sydney. Mim mentioned that she’d used hypnobirthing techniques with her recent labour, and after reading up on the concepts behind it, I was absolutely convinced that it was the best way forward for me and my baby. I thoroughly bought into the whole shebang – after all, women in remote parts of Africa have been birthing babies for centuries without epidurals and using the F word – and after they’ve had their babies, they just get on with their day!

I couldn’t find a hypnobirthing practitioner in my area, so I bought the CDs and books that teach you how to self-hypnotise as you go into labour. I lapped them up, and would happily sit on the train to work every day, mentally going through my affirmations and teaching myself how to relax. I was genuinely excited and looking forward to birthing my bab (they say birthing in hypnobirthing, they also say surge rather than contraction – an effort to make the language more positive and natural).

Anyway, despite my almost evangelical preaching about the merits of hypnobirthing to anyone with ears, and my constant daydreams of me, gently breathing my baby out whilst listening to whale music, pink and glowing in the water, smiling serenely, my Little J had slightly different plans…

At 34 weeks, I had a scheduled midwife appointment. Now, in the run-up to this date, I was quite convinced that my baby was breech. I could feel his head shoved up high under the left side of my rib cage, and even though friends told me that heads and bums feel similar in utero, I just…knew. This was confirmed at my appointment and I was sent for a scan.

At hospital, I was told that I had several options.
1. To have the baby naturally in this breech position.
2. To have an ECV to turn the baby and see if it worked.
3. To opt for an elective Caesarian.

I decided to try the ECV, and after having done some research, I decided there and then that I’d have a section if it didn’t work. Although the consultant left the decision entirely down to me, she did tell me afterwards that she felt that my choice was the absolute best and safest option for both of us.

In the weeks leading up the the section, I tried all the bum-in-the-air rocking, tipping myself upside down on the sofa – you name it. The ECV didn’t work either. The baby was NOT for turning.

So, in a nutshell, that was the end of the hypnobirthing! Ha ha! So my hippy-dippy beautiful hypno-water birth with soft music and candle lighting turned into an elective c-section. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum…

Now, I know some people may be surprised to hear me say this, but even despite the lack of panpipes and candles, my birth-day itself was the most magical experience of my life. I can imagine that an emergency section is VERY different, but a planned one is really rather nice. I didn’t even feel the epidural needle, and after 45 minutes of tugging and pulling, my baby was placed on my chest by a burly, tattooed, Mancunian surgeon. I have never experienced a more powerful rush in my life and I fell in love instantly with my beautiful little boy. My husband and I still talk about it in detail eight months on. It was just fabulous.

And, it turns out that I made the right decision regarding the section as Little J’s head was stuck fast! He’s done his own thing to this day πŸ™‚

For my next baby, I’d be more then happy to have another Caesarian if needs be.

How about you mummies? Did your birth plans work out? Or did your baby have other ideas?

Check out my lovely friend Mama Mim’s birth blog, who – as per my story – used hypnobirthing for her first baby and it worked! http://bit.ly/1qFoDT6

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Gorgeous gifts for new mummies

Hey mommas.

If you have a friend who’s just had a baby, or is about to pop any day, I’ve put together this handy list of five unusual/useful Christmas gifts. They also double up as general new baby gifts, or even Christening presents.

I’m always wracking my brains to think of slightly different or interesting gifts, so if you’re of the same mind-set, have a look at the below suggestions for inspiration:

1. Baby imprint kits
I received one of these from my sister-in-law when Little J was born. It was a footprint imprint kit, and it made a lovely change from all the baby clothes! For Christmas, you can also get handprint kits that make Christmas decorations. Lovely keepsakes to treasure.

And if you’re feeling more adventurous and have babs or toddlers yourself, get happy with the salt-dough and make your own handprint decs for relatives!

Welcome to the World Imprint Kit
http://www.mamasandpapas.com
Β£10.95

2. Baby aid baskets
Now this is something absolutely wish that I’d be presented with as a new mummy! It would have saved me (my husband) countless trips to the pharmacy as we tackled all the previously unimagined baby ailments. Not cheap to put together, but why not make your new mummy friend a home-made baby aid basket? Buy a small basket or box, and fill it to the brim with Calpol, baby Nurofen, Colief, Infacol, teething powders, Bonjela, gripe water, Metanium, Sudocrem, baby nail clippers, massage oil, a snot-picker (nice!), Snufflebabe and a thermometer.

Before becoming a mum, I had vague imaginings that babies occasionally got some mystical condition called Colic and that they were born without teeth. That was about it. At least a box like this would slightly soften the “finding out the hard way” journey πŸ™‚

3. Personalised room signs
I’ve bought several of these now from the same eBay shop, Pretty Unique Plaques. I was so impressed with the first one for the price that I’ve had them made for every friend who’s had a baby since! Handmade to your specifications, these little wooden, hand-drawn signs with raffia string are the picture of cuteness, and definitely add a personal touch. Check out the Facebook page for Pretty Unique Plaques:

http://www.facebook.com/prettyuniqueplaques

4. Sophie la Giraffe
Now, most mummies worth their salt will be able to spot a Sophie at 10 paces. But it’s worth remembering that new mummies are not “born” (pardon the pun) with the God-given knowledge of such items. So I think a Sophie makes a lovely pressie.

The natural rubber teethers have been around for 50 years (!) according to their website – but I had never heard of them before my boy was born. Nevertheless, he does enjoy chomping on French Sophie’s legs! Ooh la lah.

http://www.sophielagirafe.co.uk

5. Pampering vouchers
One of the absolute best presents I received when I had my Little J was a voucher for my local beautician (thanks sis!). I didn’t use if for a long time, but it had no end date, so when I was ready I booked in for the works! Amidst piles of beautiful baby clothes, toys and keepsakes, it’s gorgeous to receive a little present just for you. So treat your new mum friend to a pampering session – massages, facials, manicures and even waxes go down very well with tired mummies who don’t have much time for themselves. Chuck in a bottle of Champagne or Prosecco too if you’re feeling flush. Best buddy brownie points for life πŸ™‚

If you have any ideas for useful, different or interesting presents for new mummies, share them! xxx

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