Archive | May, 2013

Have baby. Will travel.

16 May

Travelling light? Not exactly...

A week long holiday in Greece now involves 2 large suitcases, a rucksack, a huge buggy, a baby carrier and giant hand luggage packed with toys. We didn’t even know if we’d be able to fit it all in a normal sized car to get to the airport. It’s a lot of stuff.

It did just about fit in the car but that’s just the start of the logistical wrangling that is travelling with a baby. I used my trusted method of trial and error, coupled with my mantra: I’m sure it’ll all be fine. Lets start at the beginning.

We had travelled with the baby before. A week self catering in France when she was 12 weeks old involved packing every cubic centimetre of our car with stuff in a Jenga meets Crystal Maze kinda way. We took EVERYTHING. Buggy, bouncy chair, steriliser, nappies, clothes for any meteorological event imaginable, formula, bedding, spare everything. Again, it was a lot of stuff. Mainly because we were still new at being parents and had The Fear that a giant Carrefour might not stock the exact items we wanted for our tiny baby.

We survived. It was actually fun. I’m glad we went. Actually, I’m more glad we booked the trip while I was pregnant. If we’d left it till after the baby was born I doubt we’d have had the confidence/energy/organisation to sort it out. It was a lovely holiday. We had lunch out each day and cooked dinner at our rented cottage on the evening then drank wine, ate cheese and watched Game of Thrones on the laptop while the baby snoozed on the sofa beside us. She slept on a single bed in our bedroom after going postal in the cot on the first night. We just surrounded her with pillows. Happy days.

At 8 months we took her to Madrid for 4 days. Flying = Less stuff. We took a Maclaren stroller rather than our massive Bugaboo and 2 large cases. We rented an apartment through AirBnB. We took her to galleries, museums, tapas bars. She slept in a travel cot. We did the same as France. Lunch out, dinner in. Then beers and Homeland DVD for us. It was fine.

So, now she’s 14 months and the opportunity arose for an impromptu package holiday to Lindos in Rhodes. “It’ll be fine!” My trusty motto reassured me. It was fine. But it was not without challenges.

Some of the questions I asked myself were:

• What if she won’t drink Greek cows milk? She did.

• What if she won’t eat the food? She did. A lot.

• What if she gets bitten by mosquitoes? She didn’t. I did.

• What if she won’t sleep in a strange room/cot/climate? Again. All fine.

The baby was fine. She took it all in her wobbly stride.

The airport was easy. Gatwick had a designated Family Security channel. It was closed. We had to disassemble our big buggy for scanning and we had to sacrifice a 200ml bottle of toddler milk as it would’ve been useless had we opened it (it was for her last feed of the day). We bought more in Boots. You can pre-order formula powder and ready made milk then collect it at the airport. News to me. Handy.

We had a late lunch and boarded quickly. Thomson had seated a lot of the small kids in the same part of the plane which was good for us as there’s safety in shouty numbers, bad for the child-free travellers unlucky enough to be seated in close proximity.

Our flight was at 4pm and the baby was in good spirits, sitting or more often, standing on my lap, looking about, happy-slapping my face and laughing. It was a 4 hour flight and she snoozed a bit, ate a sandwich, drank some milk and stared at the little boy in the seat behind me. It was ok.

Collecting bags at Rhodes was ok, finding our coach was ok.

Then it was Really Not Ok.

Bedtime had long passed. It was hot. The baby went postal. She was the only infant on our coach and she was going crazy. Not ideal. A fellow passenger tried to calm her with a chocolate button. No. This seemed to offend her so much that she upped the rage to Purple. Sigh.

I stripped her down to her vest and when they turned the lights out she calmed but did not want to sit on my lap at all. She bucked and contorted like a fitting, psychotic octopus for 45 mins. Then peace. Then they stopped the coach to drop people off. They put the lights on. The beast was awoken.

After an hour we arrived at our hotel and the relief on the coach was audible as we disembarked. The baby was now happy as Larry in the reception area and worryingly Wide Awake.

Our apartment was lovely, the cot was already set up. We put her down. We drank cold beer outside. She slept. Thank fuck for that.

The week was great fun, but not a ‘holiday’ in the traditional sense. The baby wanted to crawl everywhere, pull up on anything, throw herself into the pool at any opportunity and generally exhibit no diligence at all in regard to personal safety. She seemed to actively pursue danger. We took it in shifts to herd her away from potentially life threatening activities. It was hard work, but she was delightful, funny and good value. She learned the word “goat” quite quickly, then unfortunately applied it thus:
Baby: (pointing) “Wassat? Goat?”
Me: “No, that’s a lady”

Bit embarrassing but hilarious.

The Greek people were amazingly accommodating of my beautiful blond girl. She was warmly welcomed in to tavernas, shopkeepers gave her (inappropriate) sweets and even nice restaurants were more than happy to have her.

Everywhere had high chairs. Everywhere had hummus. The baby was happy.

So, what did she eat? After a suspicious poke, she decided that Greek yoghurt, although different, was fine. Greek salad was also good. Pita bread, hummus and bananas provide a balanced diet, right?

I bought a bag of mini chocolate croissants, figuring, why not? It’s her holiday too. Why not have something a bit less healthy. She had chips too. A lot. I’d rather she had chips and pastries rather than nothing. Yes, she loves cucumber and tomato but she needed calories.

I did take some Ella’s Kitchen pouches just in case and these were useful. Easy to heat, no need to refrigerate.

We fed her dinner before we went out so she wouldn’t be hungry like the wolf (and therefore mardy as hell) when we arrived at a taverna. 3 nights out of 6 she fell asleep in the buggy in the walk into town and stayed asleep all evening, allowing us to drink cheap (but nice) Greek wine and eat our dinner in blissful peace. Thank you baby.

The 3 other nights she sat in a high chair, eating bits and pieces of our food, poking her fingers in tzatziki, chatting away merrily. It was mostly stress free. Several things made this possible.

1. Wifi. Greece has fully embraced free wifi, unlike some other countries, (I’m talking about you, France). If she got a bit stroppy I’d show her some In The Night Garden on my phone. Never underestimate the hypnotic soothing power of that weird shit.

2. Greek people genuinely love kids. They weren’t just tolerating her, they chatted, played and entertained her.

3. Chips.

It was a lot of fun. It also meant I got to eat some chips. Bonus.

We achieved Baby Sleepage both at nap time during the day, and in the evening by walking her around a bit, reclining the buggy right back (Bugaboo Cameleon, we love you) and covering her with a snooze shade. Ours is by KooDi and it was £15 in Boots. It’s the best £15 we spent with regard to holiday stuff. Get one. Seriously.

Other things to consider include packing stuff for yourself. I packed so much for the baby, when we unpacked in Rhodes I did think “Shit! Where’s all my stuff?” Answer: in my house in south London. Oh.

Take a washing up brush. Take more nappy sacks than you think you need. Take those clip things from Ikea to keep packets of food closed. You can buy nappies and wipes if you run out. Maybe not in deepest darkest Peru, but Europe is fine. People have babies there all the time, apparently. Use tripadvisor if you have questions. It’s a fantastic resource.

So, then we were homeward bound. We had a short but enthusiastic bout of Unexplained Baby Rage when we boarded our 11pm flight. Total back-bending, call an exorcist kind of rage. She screamed herself hoarse in 15 mins then stopped as soon as the plane engine noise increased for take-off. My husband was horrified at her tantrum. I think out of embarrassment more than anything. I can understand that. But, she was so knackered and annoyed, she couldn’t calm down or relax. She’s a baby. She doesn’t understand. It was a short-lived, high volume and unpleasant strop, but it wasn’t the end of the world. My view is that sometimes babies cry. Sometimes they cry really loud. If babies are welcomed/allowed into public places then people need to expect baby behaviour. I will not be offended if a pub or restaurant tells me they don’t allow children, but if they have high chairs and kids menus then they need to be tolerant of kids being kids. I’m not talking about bad behaviour. It’s just behaviour.

Anyway, nobody complained (to us) on our flight. Other babies yelled, yodelled and cried on and off. She slept for the entire flight apart from a glassy eyed wake up in the middle for 10 minutes, pointing at my face and whispering “Wassat?”. She even slept through a very bumpy landing. You can’t ask for more than that. Except for more leg room, not losing all feeling in one hand and not being able to get up to use the loo, but that’s just me being picky.

We have a trusty local taxi firm and my mum had dropped off our car seat to them on the day of our return. We taped our phone number and flight details to it and the cab driver met us with it. This saved us having to take our car and pay for parking or faff about with the train in the middle of the night.

To summarise, travel with kids is hard work but I really think it’s worth it. The ‘being there’ bit is a piece of piss, its the actual travel part that’s a PITA. My daughter was much harder work at 14 months, than she was at 8 months or 3 months as she needed more toys, books and general entertaining. She’s also too long to comfortably fit on my lap for a long flight. 4 hours was pushing my limit. But, she really enjoyed herself. We all enjoyed it. My husband and I really enjoyed her. That’s what’s important. I’m glad we went. I’ll always remember it.

Even though I’ve never been to Centre Parcs I have a strange aversion to it. It seems like posh Butlins, it’s really expensive in comparison to cheap international travel and I don’t know why people would go back time and time again when you can take your kids to France to do outdoor pursuits, visit European cities or beaches, let them experience something different, new food, sights, music, architecture. I was lucky, my parents travelled with me a lot when I was small. Yes, we went to Disney and on package holidays and Butlins, but I also remember experiencing the foreign-ness of Tunisian markets, Portuguese castles, different food, swimming in the warm sea.

My husband and I travelled a lot before the baby was born. I remember seeing a Canadian couple with their 2 year old in Sepilok in Borneo and thinking ‘I wanna do that when I have kids’. When I went to Angkor Wat I decided I wanted to return later in life, kids in tow.

Travelling with kids isn’t as complicated as people think. It’s all about planning and making sensible choices. If it all goes wrong then you can just go home. You won’t know how good it can be until you try it. I want my daughter to be scrambling all over the temples in Cambodia with all the local kids in a few years time. I want to show her the Royal Palace in Bangkok. Take her to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Climb up to the Acropolis in Athens.

This trip was brilliant. I returned knackered, sans tan but happy. My love of travel hasn’t diminished since I became a mother. I just need to pack more stuff now.

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In The Night Garden (of my soul)

9 May

Is it wrong to let your toddler watch tv? It depends on what, when, how much and why.

My daughter has watched an episode of the mind-bending weirdness that is In The Night Garden as part of her bedtime routine since she was about 5 months old. We have cuddles in front of CBeebies if she’s unwell, overtired or upset. Sometimes I put it on for 10 minutes to keep her amused and out of trouble while I’m trying to get ready to leave the house.

If the TV is showing cartoons, she’ll stare at it, blank faced and glassy eyed. Programmes with real people or animals are her favourite. She looks engaged, her eyes track the action and she will giggle at appropriate times when she finds something amusing such as people falling over. I love that. I’ve always thought that people falling over is intrinsically funny, and this proves my point. It’s fucking hilarious. My 13 month old says so.

She loves shows with music and singing (although I’m sure sinister things occur in Balamory under the cover of darkness) and she loves Zingzillas (a band of clothed monkeys with cultural musical guests, what’s not to love?).

I try to make sure I don’t substitute TV for parenting, except in emergencies (caring for a 9 month old while suffering norovirus? Bleak.) I try to steer clear of neon cartoons or anything too hectic or violent (I’m talking to you Cartoon Network).

I never watched much TV as a kid and now as an adult there’s maybe 2 or 3 things I watch in a week. Mostly I think the content of our 200 hundred channels is total shit. The programmes I love are few and far between, Homeland, House, Game of Thrones for example.

Programming for littlies has come on a lot in recent years. Cbeebies is a mix of gentle humour, cultural diversity, fun education and lovely storytelling. But, there are shows I HATE. Mr Maker can drive that Makermobile off Beachy Head, Thelma and Louise style, and he can take Mr Bloom with him to his watery grave. Creepy, both.

Nb. Mr Bloom is FAKE NORTHERN. Why? Who knows. But I’m reliably informed that the actor is from the West Country.

Let’s Play is wonderful. Fine humour and educational role play.

The reigning king of CBeebies is surely Mr Tumble. I used to think he was also in the Creepy Bastard category, but now I LOVE him. Justin Fletcher is brilliant. His (many) shows are funny, entertaining, education and inclusive. I’m sure the stigma of special needs is being reduced by him alone. (But, Cliff Tumble MUST be stopped).

And then there’s In The Night Garden. There aren’t enough psychotropic drugs in South London that would enable me to get my head around this crazy land of the bizarre. Yes, babies and toddlers adore this special brand of insanity, and frankly I fear for Derek Jakobi’s mental health. I imagine him in a padded room clutching a pair of Tombliboo trousers. And don’t even start trying to rationalise Makka Pakka. My husband labelled him “an obese alien with a zimmer frame and a penchant for rocks”. As a psychologist, I’ve diagnosed all ITNG characters with some condition or syndrome or whatnot.

Whatever it is, kids love it, and it’s sweet and affectionate. The Wattingers seem to get a raw deal, but hey ho.

I remember the guilt the first time I put my daughter in front of the TV in her bouncy chair. She was 8 weeks old and in the screamy evil clutches of colic and reflux. She calmed down immediately. It made my brain stop feeling like it was going to dribble out of my ears.

As time has gone on, she still likes to watch tv, but will play with toys or people if it’s on rather than just staring blankly at the flat screen. I kind of miss the newborn days where I could sit on the sofa holding her whilst watching a test match. She showed little interest in James Anderson’s pace bowling technique but you can’t have everything.

TV, gaming and the Internet are viewed as negative influences on kids, but exposure to these things is down to parents to control. Kids and teens aren’t known for their self control and the buck has to stop with parents. It’s an adults responsibility to decide what is appropriate and ensure boundaries are set and adhered to.

Kids are drawn to technology like sticky-fingered moths to a flame but they can not be expected to exercise restraint of apply self censorship.

I recently calmed a wriggly screechy toddler on a flight with downloaded episodes of Charlie and Lola on the iPlayer app. It was a godsend. TV has its place and its up to you as a parent to find that place.

Take the little sail down. Light the little light…just don’t think too much about the Wattingers. Poor bastards.

 

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Feminism? Where?

5 May

I have classed myself as a feminist since my teens.  My parents never suggested there was anything I could not do because of my gender.  My parents and teachers were the influential adults in my development, (along with my first idol, Madonna).  All in all, I received positive role models for independence, success and strength.

As the mother of a daughter, I now feel a sad and slightly sickening sense of despair.  Feminism seems to have regressed in the last 20 years.  Yes, we have a lot more legislation against gender discrimination, but the media’s portrayal of women now is worse than ever.  Not just tabloids and their aggressive pursuit of bikini shots of every prospective talent show finalist/Coronation St actress/WAG; but glossy magazines too.  Magazines made by women, for women, make women feel like shit and tell them they aren’t good enough on a monthly basis for £3.50 a pop.  And we BUY THIS SHIT.   Actually I don’t buy it.  I stopped buying magazines a few a years ago because they weren’t really telling me anything new and I wasn’t in the market for £200 cardigans.

The scrutiny of women (Too Fat! Too Thin! What An Awful Frock! Wrinkles! Crone!) is relentless and female ‘celebrities’ are not exactly lining up to shine the beacon of Feminism. Women who could do so much, do nothing.  I’m not saying that all females in the public eye have a responsibility to promote feminism, its just that I have no idea why the wouldn’t want to.  To step out of the vapid and sexualised mould would be marketing genius, because its so fucking rare.

Rianna disgusts me. Shame on her. Literally.

The bare bones of the problem of stagnant feminism is that women don’t feel in a position to encourage each other.  Instead, we are constantly pitted against each other.  Who is thinner?  Has better hair, better clothes? Looks younger?  There can be no cohesive group that pushes for change as we are so fucking busy comparing ourselves to the next broad. Motherhood is no different.  Whose child sleeps longer? Walks sooner?  Behaves better? It is all ammunition in a polite war of passive aggressive one-upmanship. It helps nobody.  How can we expect to be role models for our children when we act like children ourselves?

I want my daughter to believe she can achieve things in life by hard work and a motivation to succeed, rather than looking good in a bikini or marrying a rich man.  What is this, the fucking 50s?  When did girls’ aims and ambitions become so low rent?  So truly pathetic? When I was a teenager, marrying a footballer and living a life of luxury wasn’t something we ever considered for our futures.  In the last 20 years the media has manipulated young girls into thinking that WAGdom is The Good Life,  That is Success.  When you think about it, it is success by their own gutter standards.  To become a WAG you need to be pretty (ish), skinny and wear bikinis on hot beaches. Tick those boxes and you’re a winner, baby. The fact that your footballer husband probably cheats on you with prostitutes or WAG wannabes is just the price you pay.  That male behaviour is fine. How?

MTV videos still look like footage from a brothel.  Long lens paparazzi will invade anyone’s privacy for hard cash. Even the future Queen on England’s nipples are fair game. Women with drug and alcohol problems are splashed across magazines and tabloids like a real life soap opera, the dark circles and smudged make up a stark warning: Look How Ugly You Could Become.

With the curent obsession with looks, raising a daughter is a daunting business.  Most of all, I want her to be happy.  Obviously I don’t want her to be happy in a crack den somewhere, but I want her to make her own choices and take her own path.  I hope we can give her the confidence and educatiom to be able to strive forward on her own.  I know however, that I can not protect her from the world, the media, the music industry, the Internet or peer pressure.  All we can do is instil in her the knowledge that she is valid, important and that a whole world of options are available to her.

Feminism is not about women wanting or demanding it all.  It’s about women being able to have what they want regardless of the fact they have tits. Being judged on skills, experience and ability.  Women are people. Humans. Just like men! Whodathunkit?

I know I am quick to judge when I read about forced marriages, child brides and lack of education for girls in other countries, and we should of course strive for a better deal for females all over the world.  But, on thinking about it a bit more I concluded that these cultural practices are just that, cultural practices that haven’t evolved with the changing tides of equality.  Whereas we in the West, in the UK at least, seem to have actively regressed in recent years.  Women are getting a worse deal, are more sexualised than ever, judged on appearance first and foremost, constantly begging for validation by conforming to what a woman should be like. And the thing that drives me mental is that WE ARE SITTING DOWN AND FUCKING TAKING IT.

Say what you want about the Spice Girls but they at least brought their own form of feminism into the media.  They hammered it home.  Girl Power! Yay!  They didn’t really say what the power was, or how to use it, but it was a start.  Yes they wore ridiculous shoes and tiny skirts, but why the heck not?  The least feminist thing I can think of is saying ‘You can’t wear that, and call yourself a feminist’.  Utter twattery.   Surely feeling comfortable in your skin is a good thing and if you want to wear make up or high heels, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t, because Feminism tells you so.

Where do I stand?  I wear some make up most days, but I am happy to leave the house without it.  I wear jeans every single day. Why do these things matter?  Why does a Feminist in make up and a dress lack credibility?  It’s competition again.  ‘I’m clearly more feminist that you! I’m not painting my face or wearing impractical clothes just because I’m a woman!’ is one of the reasons women can’t unite. They are competing against each other so vehemently that they can not join together.  All we see is the differences as we have been conditioned to evaluate, discriminate and place ourselves in the hierarchy of the women around us.  Its completely fucked up. Another example of Divide and Don’t Conquer.   We don’t need to all be the same, look the same and want the same lives, but we should all have the same goal.   To be equal.

Eradicating sexism is not about creating a homogeneous race. There are gender differences and there always will be. Men and women have different strengths and weaknesses. But these strength and weaknesses should not determine what is allowed, what is expected of us.  We should be free to break the mould if we are capable of doing so, and if we so wish.

I’m trying to start my daughter on the right track.  I want her to wear a dress if she wants,  to wear trousers if she wants.  To not feel like she has to act a certain way.  To not accept discrimination or sexism.  I don’t want her to miss out on opportunities because of her gender, to benefit less than males in the same circumstances.  I want her to have equal pay.  Mostly, I want her to want to have all these things. To demand them.

I’m lucky.  I have a group of supportive and caring friends, many of whom have daughters.  So, if all else fails maybe we can train them to become our own little feminist army.  There’ll be no uniform though.  They can wear whatever the hell they want.

Making friends with lycra and other maternity clothes musings

3 May

I was lucky. I was donated and lent a lot of maternity clothes by my incredibly stylish and generous friends. That’s what happens when you are 34. Your friends are done with pregnancy and babies and frankly want all the paraphernalia out of their loft.

I didn’t really get into maternity clothes until I was around 6 and a half months pregnant. I wore my regular jeans for a long time, then bought 2 pairs of stretchy Primark skinnies one size up and wore them all the time with the waistband rolled down.

My boobs did not balloon into massive Jordanesque beasts (sadly) so my tops were fine for quite a long while too. It was winter so I just bought long vest tops and bump bands (amazing inventions) to bridge the gap.

At 7 months I moved into leggings and lycra maternity dresses. This became my uniform for the next 2 months. Lycra was my friend for the first time ever. My growing bump was low and round and I was incredibly proud if it. Wearing stretchy, close fitting clothes was a revelation.

At this point in my pregnancy I could no longer exercise ‘properly’ so I took up Aqua Aerobics, or Crone Splash as it was known in our house. In a one piece swimming costume I looked like an egg with legs. Not exactly the sexy pregnant lady ideal, but you get what you’re given. Being in the pool was fantastic. Hauling myself out? Not so much. Think: calling Greenpeace and winching equipment. But, the exercise helped both physically and mentally I’m sure.

As I wore my lovely stretchy lycra most days, the bump was obvious. It was Out There. Everywhere I went, people would now ask me when my baby was due. Strangers in the supermarket would try to TOUCH MY BUMP. To say this annoyed me is putting it mildly. Very mildly. It drove me nuts. I developed the following strategy and I advise all pregnant women to try it at least once. It’s brilliant in its simplicity.

Random: Ooh, when are you due, love?
Me: [deadpan, staring straight into their soul] I’m not pregnant.

It’s fucking hilarious. My husband was mortified when I did this when he was with me. Especially right at the end when I was huge. Do it. It’s awesome.

Anywaaay. Sorry, I digress. Back to the maternity clothes…

I found most mat clothes to fall into one of two categories.
1. Fucking horrible.
2. Hideously expensive.

These categories are not mutually exclusive either. Here are my views on what’s worth the money.

H&M
Great for tops, vests and dresses that double up as breastfeeding accessible.

Next
Good quality over all.
Great leggings.
Good choice of jeans.
Good swimwear and nightwear.

Mothercare
Vests great, underwear great.
Quite pricey for the quality.

Dorothy Perkins
Good maternity versions of their regular range.
Great for coats.

New Look
Some nice lycra tops and dresses.
Leggings are awful quality. Avoid.
Bump bands!! Brilliant.
TOO MANY SLOGANS! Slogans are my bugbear. Especially maternity slogans. Just. Say. No.

Red Herring (Debenhams)
Really lovely, good quality stuff.

Mamas & Papas
Remortgage your house.

My advice is borrow mat clothes or just buy stuff in a larger size until you really need to resort to maternity ranges, because you will get bored of them. Believe me.

Also, you’ll need them after the baby is born, for a little bit at least. I found my maternity jeans useless after the birth as they just wouldn’t stay up (vital, I find). My pre pregnancy jeans were nowhere near fitting for a month or so, and then they looked awful due to my other new acquisition.
The Overhang.
This is not a muffin top, it’s a whole fucking cake.

So, maternity leggings were still the staple of my wardrobe for a while. They come up to your boobs. They’re comfortable. It was what I needed at the time. Find good ones. Buy lots.

I haven’t had what I would class as a good figure since my teens, if I’m honest. And even then I thought I was fat. FFS. I was a size 10.

Pregnancy gave me a newfound admiration for my body. My bump was nice. Round and firm. Nothing jiggled. I felt comfortable in my skin. I did not feel fat. Even when I felt so slow and huge I couldn’t imagine ever running again, I felt good about myself.

Minus the baby my stomach looked and felt like a deflated ballon with porridge inside. It disgusted me. None of my real clothes fit and I have never felt so unattractive. It was a bleak time. I felt incredibly selfish and guilty for worrying about my body when I had a newborn to look after. Looking back it was ridiculous. I was way too hard on myself.

I also didn’t want to buy new clothes in a bigger size, which now in think was a huge mistake. I muddled through with mat clothes until I got back in my old clothes. Then I put away all the mat clothes in the loft. That was a good day.

You need to make yourself feel good in whatever ways you can after the physical and emotion wrecking ball of having a baby. It’s easy to downgrade yourself and your needs so much that you start to look and feel like a ragged crone.

You don’t need to like the changes, but it’ll help you in the long run if you try to accept them as they come. Some people I know have pretty much the same body as before pregnancy. I do not. I have stretch marks. I have soft flab that I never had before. I have carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s just part of the deal. I don’t resent it. It is what it is. In order to grow a baby in my mid thirties I acquired some collateral damage.

Midwives and other women said to me over and over, “Your body is designed to do this.” The thing is, it was actually designed to do it twenty years earlier at age 15 rather than 35. I was busy back then.

Embrace the bump. Pull on the lycra and deal with the aftermath as best you can. Physically, you won’t be the same as before, but nothing else will be the same either.

Pregnancy and childbirth leave you with battle scars, but they should feel like a badge of honour. And at least we have more maternity clothes options than the tent dresses that our mums had to deal with in the 70s. I hate polyester.

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Sausage, egg and chips.

3 May

The colic post can wait. Soz.

Following yesterday’s feeding post and the response it had on FB I’m posting about feeding again. Food this time.

A Brief History of Centiles…
My daughter was born a bit early, in the 25th centile but very long. 58cm long. This meant she was quite, quite thin. She looked a bit like a skinned rabbit hanging in a butchers window when she finally got out (with surgical assistance, but that’s another story for another time).

She hardly woke up for the first few weeks and feeding was a nightmare. She never woke or cried to feed, suffered colic and reflux and didn’t gain much weight.

She dropped down to near the 9th centile in the first 6 weeks then slowly started climbing back up, millimetre by millimetre.

The health visitor and my GP recommended early weaning (4 at months) due to her reflux. She seemingly hated milk. Not ideal for a tiny baby.

I tried her with some fruit purée at just under 5 months. She was interested but not ready. She pushed the mashed apple out of her mouth rather than taking it to the back of her throat and swallowing it.

We tried again a few weeks later and she swallowed the fruit and wanted more.

In the 7 months that followed she’s had a good go at pretty much everything we’ve offered her and gradually climbed up to around the 60th centile. Phew.

What I’m saying is, if your baby is a demon to milk feed (thrashing, angry, red. Horns optional) then don’t worry too much. Babies do not starve themselves to death. Yes, they are contrary, picky, unpredictable and annoying about food. They’re essentially like cats. What is the best thing ever one day has the ability to become putrid poison to them overnight. They will have enough. They still have milk. Try not to panic.

Some thoughts on Baby Led Weaning

This is very popular now. But, like most baby techniques, ideologies and strategies, it’s not for everyone. I used the principle of letting her try foods she showed an interest in and letting her feed herself, but I also spoon fed her some purée and baby food as I was hellbent on making sure she actually consumed calories rather than just distributing them all over my floor.

If you have a hungry, enthusiastic baby then BLW is great. If, like me, you have a baby who’s not motivated by food and is quite low weight, then it wasn’t ideal. I wanted to know how much she had actually eaten.

Spoon feeding is not force feeding as some BLW nutters will suggest. Pretty much everyone over the age of 5 was spoon fed and guess what? WE ARE FINE. There was life before BLW.

Like all baby fads/fashions/methods take what you want from it and discard the rest.

My daughter sometimes refuses the spoon now, but still isn’t coordinated enough to spoon feed herself runny stuff so I let her eat most things with her hands. Note: cling film your house.

Weaning is fun. It’s also frustrating, time consuming and creates a lot of mess and waste. My advice is try load of different stuff. Even stuff you don’t like.

I let my daughter try ice cream at around 7 months. She has the odd piece of chocolate. She prefers savoury stuff it seems but I don’t want any particular food to be perceived as ‘bad’ or a ‘treat’. I am trying to keep emotive language away from food and to never use it as a reward. I want her to eat healthily of course, but I want her to use food as fuel rather than as an emotional resource. I want her to eat when she’s hungry and stop when she’s full.

I had a range if issues with food in my teens and my (slim) mother has been on a diet for her entire life it seems. I want my daughter to be free of guilt or fear when it comes to eating.

So, where are we now?

My daughter is 13 months and is faddy about food. She generally eats between 1 and 2 slices of toast for breakfast. Usually with either cream cheese, marmite or sugar-free jam.

Lunch could be anything. I often save a bit of my dinner from the night before. Or she might have pasta, beans on toast or cauliflower cheese. Sometimes she eats loads. Sometimes next to nothing.

Dinner is much the same as lunch. Sometimes she has chips (gasp!) or potato wedges. Sometimes she has yoghurt. She usually has fruit of some kind. And a chocolate biscuit (Heinz baby biscotti).

I try not to give too many snacks as it means she has no appetite for meals. If she does have a snack it’s usually rice cakes, crackers, Organix corn crisps (look like wotsits, taste like NOTHING) or raisins.

She’s quite adventurous. She’s had Katsu curry in Wagamamas, eats raw red onion, sucks wedges of lemon and eats all the ingredients in a Pizza Express tuna Niçoise salad. Her absolutely favourite thing at the moment is smoked salmon. This is one middle class baby.

When we’re out I let her try stuff. Nothing is bad in tiny quantities (except perhaps gin).

She tried crisps, chocolate brownies and chocolate cornflake cake at a friends party recently.

She has been to McDonalds. She had 6 chips (so shoot me).

She’s been sucking/chewing on pizza crust in restaurants since she was big enough to sit in a high chair.

She had tapas in Madrid and she’ll eat Greek salad in Rhodes when we go there this summer. Pitta bread and taramasalata is right up her street. I’ll still be taking a couple of Ella’s Kitchen pouches of spag bol on holiday as a back up but I’m hoping she’ll be ok and take it in her wobbly stride.

As with everything, my motto is ‘I’m sure it’ll be fine’. If things don’t work I just try something else and try not to get disheartened.

I’d rather she eats something rather than nothing. Even if that something isn’t steamed organic vegetables and brown rice (yeah, good luck with that).

As for the title of this post, my girl LOVES a sausages. Sausage rolIs too. I wouldn’t let her have it everyday but a balance diet is just that. Balanced. She will eat chips if all else fails (I make my own, aren’t I la-di-da!) and there’s nowt wrong with a dippy egg and soldiers.

It’s not what you give your child for dinner that counts. It’s their overall diet. So don’t judge me if you see me feeding my daughter ice cream or pizza for dinner. She’ll most likely have had cucumber and tomatoes for lunch. That or sausages.

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Breast is best except when it’s not.

2 May

Inglorious Guide To Early Days Feeding

If you want to breastfeed and it’s working for you and your baby, great.

If you want to breastfeed but it’s not working, seek help from your Health Visitor or local Breast Feeding Support.

If breastfeeding still doesn’t work, you have to formula feed or combination feed. You have to. End of story.

If you don’t want to breastfeed, then don’t.

If you want to stop breastfeeding then do so. Whenever you want.

If you don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding in public, then don’t.

***********

I was tempted to leave this post at that. But I have a few (ranty) points to make first.

Things I didn’t know about breast feeding before I had a baby:

1. Some women will care a great deal about how you feed your baby. You may not know them very well, but they will make it their business to get up in your grill to tell you just how vital breastfeeding is.

2. People will ask you if you are breastfeeding. (I’m talking Randomers. Receptionists, neighbours, total strangers. Not medical professionals).

3. It’s FUCKING DIFFICULT. Ok, not for everyone. But for a lot of women I know, it was a real struggle.

4. It’s a ridiculously emotional issue.

5. It hurts some women. A lot. More than you might expect. One friend said it felt like someone was twisting her nipple off with hot tongs. Ow.

My Experience…

I felt under a huge amount of pressure to breastfeed. I wanted to breastfeed. It didn’t work out for us. I really tried. Really really tried.

“Keep at it!” was the enthusiastic advice I was given by midwives, breastfeeding support ladies, friends.

My baby was readmitted to hospital at 4 days old with dehydration.

I felt sick.
I felt guilty.
Mostly I felt like a total failure.

I was given a schedule to formula feed every 3 hours and I continued to breastfeed as well. This left little time for much else.

My daughter gained a little weight and was discharged. She also had the tongue tie procedure to assist her latch, even though we weren’t even sure she required it. “It won’t do any harm,” the midwife said, just before slicing through flesh in my baby girl’s tiny mouth.

We went home. We saw a lactation consultant. I hired a medical grade breast pump. I was breastfeeding, expressing, topping up with formula and with expressed milk. Sterilising all the fucking time. I took fenugreek supplements. I did breast compressions until I had bruises.

It was a bleak time. I didn’t sleep. I was told to express in the middle of the night as this was the “best” time.

I tried several times to return to exclusive breast feeding. One breastfeeding support worker suggested I take to my bed over the Easter weekend and feed my baby every 2 hours for 4 days straight, day and night. My initial response was “Are you fucking high?!” But of course I just smiled and nodded, strapped my baby into her car seat and quietly cried all the way home.

As I began to come to terms with combined feeding my baby developed reflux. Screaming, thrashing, refusing to feed from bottle or breast for hours, then regurgitating it all up again anyway so we had to start all over again. I felt very sad and jealous of my breastfeeding friends with their hungry babies. My teeny tiny girl was thin and never hungry. I blamed myself. I can’t remember why. My husband was incredibly supportive but I still felt like a failure.

Then I just stopped punishing myself for something that was outside of my control. I applied my logical brain so I could see through the haze of toxic emotional crap attached to feeding.

I couldn’t exclusively breastfeed my baby to meet her needs but I could combination feed her. She needed food and I would give it to her. Some of it came from a carton but what the hell did that matter? Babies need to be fed. That’s all there is to it.

I will try to exclusively breastfeed my next baby, and I think my experiences this time around will put me in a stronger, more pragmatic frame of mind to deal with it. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, so be it.

Oh, and those breastfeeding nazis, The Breastapo, they can frankly go fuck themselves. They can take a running jump. How dare they tell anyone what they should do. I can’t quite figure out why they care so much about other people’s kids diets. Especially when I spotted one of the freaks who advised me (at a BF drop in clinic) to continue exclusively breastfeed because it was “the best possible food”, feeding her (overweight) 3 year old daughter KFC as they walked around the supermarket. Actually she’s very overweight herself. Maybe I should advise her on what “the best possible food” is.

I won’t do that though, of course. Because its none of my business.

Think this post was fun?
Next time…COLIC!!

Yet Another Mother Blog…

1 May

Yes. I’m a mother. Me! Fancy that. The wondrous, amazing, fulfilling, be-all-and-end-all of everything. My sole reason for existence. The pinnacle of womanhood. Oh, let me bask in the unbridled joy!

Or not.

I am not an Earth Mother, as the excellent @DadBlogUK once commended me for. I’m not spiritual about motherhood at all. Even the term Earth Mother makes me internally cringe and think of mums wearing tie dye and crystals, obsessed with placenta omelettes or the like. A World Of No.

In honesty, I never really analyse the emotional meaning of motherhood. I don’t feel a deep tribal bond with other mums, purely because we’ve all pushed tiny humans out of our vaginas. I just don’t care about that shit. I’m just getting on with it. I enjoy it. But…

I am not gleefully happy to be up to my knuckles in human faeces or picking lumps of vomit off of my daughter’s sheets at 11pm. I don’t take joy in cleaning splattered soggy vegetables off of my shoes or wet wiping stains off my jeans and, oh yeah, I’d rather not leave the house with regurgitated milk unwittingly decorating the back of my black jacket. If I had the option.

I’d rather my belly wasn’t the consistency of 3 day old blancmange.

I miss sleeping late.

I miss exotic action packed holidays.

I miss getting properly hammered on red wine.

I miss having a disposable income, city breaks and really late nights that are actually fun. I miss Sundays in the pub, spontaneity and having time to read the paper.

I’m not afraid or ashamed to admit I miss aspects of my old pre-baby life. It doesn’t mean I don’t love and cherish my baby daughter. It doesn’t mean I resent or regret her in any way. I don’t.

It just means I’m still me. Not just Mummy. I didn’t leave my personality at the maternity ward. My likes and dislikes haven’t automatically changed just because I had a baby. I’m still the same person I was, just with shifted priorities and responsibilities.

The way I see it, you have 3 options.

1. Completely sacrifice your entire life to parenting your kids and end up living vicariously through them and have no autonomy at all.

2. Somehow shoehorn your kids into your life with little consideration for what’s best for them and their development.

3. Continue to be the normal successfully functioning human being you always were by making sensible decisions. Aim to strike a happy balance between what’s best for your kid(s) and what’s best for you.*

* Option 3 does require you to accept that your life isn’t going to be fucking perfect. Because it was perfect before you had a kid, right? Oh.

BREAKING NEWS!
Everyone’s life gets turned base over apex when they have their first kid. Everyone feels out of their depth. Why wouldn’t you?

Months of pregnancy and the constant changes, expectations and research just can’t prepare you. Then, what is at best, the painful, bloody, overwhelming and bizarre experience of labour.

Whatever you do, you can not be ready. I was being wheeled into theatre after 2 days of labour, only to think “HOLY SHIT. I’M HAVING A FUCKING BABY! NOW! OHMYGOD. HOW HAS THIS HAPPENED? SHIIIIIIIIIT!” It was as if the thought hadn’t truly occurred to me at all before then.

So, it’s all going to be a bit tense, a bit weird and a very, very steep learning curve.

I said a thousand times “But I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing!” But what I do know now, a year in, is that if you have half a brain you just need to make an educated guess, do what seems right at the time and be willing to try something different if it all goes tits up. Which it probably will at some point.

The women who say its all amazing and wonderful are either lying, kidding themselves or psychopaths. Or they have mums or a nanny constantly on hand to help them through the brutal sleepless nights, the seemingly endless colic, the exhaustion, the emotional bulldozer that is new motherhood.

Essentially, it’s not easy.
It gets easier.
Then everything changes and it gets difficult again.
Then it gets easier.
Repeat for 18+ years.
Sigh.

Everyone has their own opinions, prejudices and advice about how you should feed/sleep train/wean/discipline your child. Take what suits you and file the rest under ‘Couldn’t Give A Toss’.

Do what YOU think is best.

Every mouthy tart has a blog and none of us really know any better than anyone else. Especially about YOUR kid.

So, that’s my first blog post. The next one will be about breast feeding. Which is pretty damned important seeing as it’s so clearly a matter of life or death which will define you as a mother and decide the entire future health of your baby. Or something.