Saturday, 31 December 2016

Five Years Of Motherhood

One day old

This week my lovely daughter turned 5, which of course means I have now been a mother for 5 years.

I find it strange that, on children's birthdays, all the focus is on them, and there is no celebration of the parents who are having their own little anniversary of their lives changing forever. Let's face it, we should be able to mark our surviving of another year of parenthood!

One year old
But anyway. What have the past five years taught me?

Well, they've taught me a lot about my daughter. In some ways, she astounds me. She's such a bright spark, teaching herself to read when she was 3 and continuing to learn and work things out that I couldn't expect of a child her age.

Two years old
In other ways she exhausts me. She is energetic, loud, intensely curious, demanding and highly strung. I keep telling myself she'll grow out of it but it hasn't happened so far. In fact, I often think dealing with a 4 year old was the hardest stage yet - but then maybe I'm mis-remembering the previous years!

But she also melts my heart. She has the capacity to be so kind and loving. She's an incredible big sister, even if she still struggles to see that sometimes baby brother needs more attention than she does. She's funny, and zany, and confident. I'm so proud of her.

Three years old

Being a mother for 5 years has also taught me a lot about myself. I've always been an impatient person but I assumed motherhood would teach me patience. No. I still battle with my temper on a daily basis, and lose that battle more than I'd like to. But I've learnt that I can try, more than I ever thought I could. I can empathise far more than I used to, really putting myself in my daughter's shoes to try and understand her perspective.

Four years old
Motherhood has expanded my horizons in some ways. Trying to understand all the phases of childhood has got me interested in psychology and the workings of the brain in a way I never was before. And Girl Child's natural curiosity about science has pushed me to learn about an area I'd always dismissed as 'not for me'.

All in all, the last five years have changed me more than I imagined possible. As my daughter has grown and developed, so have I. It's not been easy for either of us. But it's been worth it.

Five years old

Friday, 16 December 2016

The First School Nativity: Expectation vs Reality

Yesterday was Girl Child's first school nativity, and probably the only one where she'll get to dress up and act. She was an angel, which is ironic given how un-angelic actually is, but there we go.
My not-so-angelic angel

The first school nativity has a special place in parents' hearts - it's a chance to see your little one, often in their stage debut, dressed up and looking adorable. As a result there's a huge amount of anticipation prior to the event and your expectations are raised. Only trouble is, the reality can bring you down to the ground with a bump, much like baby Jesus when little Mary decides to drop him mid-play. (I hasten to add that didn't happen in yesterday's nativity, but I have seen it happen before.)

So here's what I expected from the nativity versus what really happened.

Expectation: I would suddenly transform into a crafting genius creating a beautiful angel's costume.
Reality: I am not a crafting genius. The costume consisted of a too-small fairy dress, sparkly cardigan and tights (non-matching) to cover up the fact the dress is too small, wings I hastily borrowed from a friend when I realised with days to spare that she would need wings (why did this not occur to me earlier??! I blame sleep deprivation) and a wonky halo made of pipe cleaners and tinsel. But she looked cute anyway.

Expectation: Cooing at her efforts to learn all the carols and joining her in a rendition of 'Away in a Manger'.
Reality: Clenching my jaw as, instead of going to sleep, she lays in bed singing 'Ding Dong Merrily On High' with gusto.

Expectation: Get there 20 minutes early to grab seats close to the front, affording me a perfect view of my little cherub.
Reality: Get there 20 minutes early to find a horde of people already there and flowing out of the churchyard, squeezing into the only seats I can find near the back, affording me a perfect view of the backs of people's heads.

Expectation: Eleanor would behave perfectly and stand exactly where she - oh who am I kidding? She would shove her way to the front, wander off halfway through or even potentially create a cameo line for herself.
Reality: In this case I was pleasantly surprised. She wasn't perfectly behaved and there was one instance of shoving to the front, but from what I could see she did really well.

Expectation: I come away with an array of heart-melting photos of my little girl in action.
Reality: I come away with a lot of blurry pictures, some with Girl Child in but mostly she'd moved before I could zoom in enough.

Expectation: I glow with pride and hold back the tears.
Reality: I glow with pride and hold back the tears.

At the end of the day, no nativity will be perfect - let's face it, it involves kids!! But it will still be a treasured memory for many years.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

20+ Christmas Family Traditions That DON’T involve Santa!

I’ve blogged before about how as a family we don’t really ‘do’ Santa/Father Christmas. One thing that is a bit tricky with this decision is the number of Christmas traditions that relate to the big man in the red suit – from the old-fashioned mince pie and carrot left out and Santa’s grottos to more modern crazes like reindeer food and Elf On The Shelf.

So, to think about how I could create our own family traditions, I asked a range of other parents what their non-Santa-related Christmas traditions are. I’m sharing them here as I think they will useful not only for families like mine that but also for families with older children who know The Truth (ahem) or just want to have some traditions that will last as their children grow.

So here they are, over 20 Christmas family traditions that you can do without reference to the big FC …


“We have advent jars instead of a calendar, I put activities and little gifts in the jars”  Bamm Boo

“We have this... it's our advent calendar and each day has a different activity. Lots of crafty things but also includes thing like donating to food banks, driving round to look at lights on houses etc” Messy Blog

“We do a random acts of kindness calendar. Here it is” – Giggles Family Vlog

“We do an activity advent calendar and every year we go to the woods and decorate a lonely tree. Here is lasts years” - Gingerlillytea

Other Preparations

“Just the crib: adding figures each week and then Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve” – HeadInBook

“We pick (an) expensive (decoration) each year. Have a day dedicated to decs and tree and lights.” – The GrownUp

“We decorate the tree together. One year my hubby did the tree by himself and couldn't understand why I burst into tears shouted at him and then stormed out (okay sounds a bit OTT but HE JUST DIDN'T GET IT!). On the more positive side, mum would make her mince pies, we'd have Amy Grant's Christmas CD on and make the mince pies. That combined with the "Holidays are Coming" advert we knew Christmas was coming. That's before you get to all the church stuff we do each year.” - HanPlans

“December 12th is St Lucia’s Eve. Every year, I put a crown of candles on my head and take a tray of snacks upstairs to the bedrooms in the middle of the night. It’s not something my family did as a child. It’s not a particularly common tradition anywhere, not even in Scandinavia where services in celebration of Saint Lucia are widely held. It does involve a midnight feast, though, and that makes it a winner with the boys. It is, I’m told, one of the best things about our family.” – Frogotter

“We do carolling. When I was younger we went to the village centre on Christmas Eve and sang. Now we live in a village on our own we go to the light switch on and carol singing round the community shop.” – East Sussex Mummy

“We (the hubby and two kids) have a couple of traditions. We like to attend the Christmas light switch on at Bluewater - I always end getting emotional during the fireworks! My sister comes over and we paint the windows - as in she draws on a humourous Christmas image on the main one and I paint it - on the side window we always have the nativity scene - I can supply pictures if you want! We also attend the Christmas Eve service at our church and the kids get to dress up and be really involved! I love it!” – Jog On Mum

Christmas Eve

“Ever since I was young, my family always took a trip to The Barrowlands market in Glasgow every Christmas Eve: if you've never heard of 'The Barras' it's essentially the dumping ground of Central Scotland, pirated DVD's, stolen gear and antique stalls that couldn't look further out of place amongst the rest. In theory, it's the last place anyone would want to spend a holiday, but it's tradition, and it's packed every year. I'm not sure whether I quite want to continue with my little one this year, I'm not exaggerating when I say it's not exactly family friendly anymore, but I'd love to continue with a less than traditional tradition.” – Life With Boys

“We go to kids church service on Christmas eve, then when we get home the 'Christmas box' will have appeared with new PJs for the whole family (which get put on straight away), a Christmas DVD (also on straight away) and popcorn, chocolate, marshmallows and hot chocolate.” – Jane from Norris Box

“Every year we do a Christmas Eve buffet for the family and then all put on our Christmas pyjamas, watch a Christmas DVD together.” – Five Little Doves 

“We always have mulled wine in our slow cooker on Christmas Eve and have family over for a gossip. It's one of my favourite foodie things about Christmas and I look forward to my own homemade mulled wine every year!” MentalParentals

“My daughter is just turning one, but we are just starting some traditions! We plan to drive around and look at the local houses' Christmas lights on Christmas eve, followed by hot chocolate near the fire” A Mundane Life

“We go to the Christingle service on Christmas Eve which is really special (and a bit of a fire hazard if I'm honest).”Life By Naomi

“For the past 8 or so years my husband & I have had a gingerbread house competition. We make & decorate our own gingerbread house on Christmas Eve after everything's done (last year I was up until about 4am) & our families then have to pick whose is best. He is the current reigning champion. Raging. (I have photos - still think mine was better last year.)” – Glasgow With Kids

Christmas Day and beyond

“Everyone in our house chooses what they want for Christmas breakfast in advance and that's what they get on Christmas morning. Even if it's chicken nuggets or melted marshmallows. We always have a ceilidh in my parents house after everyone's had a little bit too much mulled wine. It usually ends with much falling over & a bunch of bruises.” – Glasgow With Kids

“We don't open the presents until AFTER lunch! Apparently that's not popular (and we're mean!)” – Lycra Widow

“My husband’s family always have a Christmas quiz on Christmas Day. His dad spends all year making it and we all love it. It's the highlight of our year.” – Mumsy Midwife

“We always use our leftover turkey from Christmas Day to make khoresht fesenjan. It's a Persian recipe that is beYOND delicious. It uses pomegranate molasses and walnuts to create the most rich, sweetly savoury and moreish sauce that you've ever tasted. It's a fab use for the leftover meat, and we're hoping to expand it in the coming years to take in a few other Persian dishes too. None of our family is Iranian, but we really like to celebrate other cultures in our household and introduce our son to the idea of them. For us, Christmas is an excellent time to do that what with the "peace on Earth" message!” – Vie Choufleur

In Memory

Amongst the festivities it’s important to remember that, for some people, Christmas is hard. If you’re missing a lost loved one this Christmas, I hope that you can find some comfort in a tradition of your own …

“Ours is rather sombre but is meaningful to us. My fiance/the girls stepfather died suddenly a few years ago. Since then, we light an advent candle every night in December in his memory and the three of us attend a memorial service at our local church, where people can remember loved ones by placing a personalised bauble on the church Christmas tree.” – That British Betty

What non-Santa-related Christmas traditions do you have? 

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Having a SAHM wobble

Stay-at-home mums: Powered by tea
This weekend we were driving through the city centre and went past the building I used to work in. It suddenly occurred to me that it was five years almost to the day since I walked out of that building, not knowing at the time that I wouldn't ever go back to that job.

Five years. Half a decade of not being an employee.

I've written before about how I feel awkward about being a stay at home mum and, nearly three years on from that post, it's even worse. I suppose because I've had another baby people are now assuming I'm on maternity leave. So I'm having to explain all over again that, no, I'm 'just a mum'.

I've tried working from home, first selling children's books and then, when that scheme closed its UK operations, I turned to freelance writing. Which went well, it turns out I have a natural flair for writing and I got a fair bit of work, but once Baby was born I just didn't have the time or energy for it and so had to put it on hold.

When people ask what I do I don't know what to say. Do I say I'm a writer, even though at the moment my paid writing work is on hold indefinitely? Do I say I'm a stay at home mum, with all the negative connotations that may hold in people's minds? I'm not immune to the widespread talk about 'hard-working families' and the implication that carries that I'm, essentially, a layabout. Even though if I were looking after someone else's baby and school age child then I'd be a childminder and therefore hard-working again. Sigh.

And more than my worry about what to say to people and what they think of me, I am concerned about what will happen when I am ready to re-enter the world of employment. I want to give Baby the same early childhood Girl Child had, which means staying at home with him until he goes to school. That's four years off. By then I'll have a nine year chasm in my CV, filled only by the occasional stint of self-employment. Nine years is longer than I worked before having kids.

I don't know what the answer is. I don't even know what I want to do when I go back to employment. I love to write, but I also feel passionate about supporting families and young children and so would quite like to do something related to that too. But what?

Then, if I'm honest, there's my avaricious side that just wants nice things. A bigger house, holidays abroad, clothes that aren't dangerously close to being classed as 'vintage' (and not in a good way). We have enough money to muddle along, but I know if I worked we'd have more little luxuries. But equally, there will always be big houses to buy and planes to hop on. My baby won't be a baby much longer, soon he'll be a toddler then he'll be a preschooler and then, in the blink of an eye, he'll be the one walking into class without a backwards glance. So perhaps the finer things in life can wait till then?

Do any other SAHMs feel like this? Has anyone been through this stage and still managed to have a decent career afterwards? I'd love to hear some words of reassurance, or simply solidarity!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Christmas Gift Ideas for Babies

Wilfred was bemused by his latest hat but excited about chewing the pom-pom off later
DISCLAIMER: There are probably numerous blog posts out there with normal, sensible suggestions of actual baby gifts. This isn't one of them. Or maybe it is, I don't know. Just don't expect a serious product guide, OK? Oh and always supervise your baby, but you know that, right?

It's getting to that time of year when people start to ask what they can get Baby for Christmas. I struggle to find an answer because (a) he's a baby so won't have a clue what's going on anyway, and (b) we still have all of Girl Child's old toys so he doesn't really need any more.

So while I've been racking my brains for suggestions, I started to think about what Baby would really like for Christmas. Here are a few ideas which I'm sure many babies would also appreciate:

1. Shoes

No, not for wearing. Don't be ridiculous. For playing with and licking, of course. Bonus points for fun dangly laces or lovely noisy velcro. Mud and general street dirt optional but, let's face it, that'll make them far more appealing, right?

2. A hairbrush

Again, not for it's actual purpose. As Baby's hair is roughly a centimetre long, that seems excessive. But bristles are apparently very satisfying to run over the tongue, and the handles double up as teethers. Brushes are apparently best enjoyed with a generous amount of hair already entangled in the bristles. Yuck.

3. A box of tissues

Now this is a less universal one, I concede. Some babies would prefer a packet of wipes. It's all down to personal preference. My boy, though, loves a box of tissues. So satisfying to pull them all out! So tasty to chew! So funny when Mummy accidentally steps on the soggy lump he spits out! What's not to love?

4. Stuff on shelves

Again, this is one where you have to take into account personal preference. Girl Child, for instance, loved books on shelves, whereas Baby has a clear preference for cloth nappies and all their accessories. Both are excellent options for pulling down and creating a huge mess, but the nappies have the advantage of creating a soft bed to cushion their fall when they lose hold of the shelf.

5. Laundry baskets

These are great for babies who are starting to pull themselves up. I say great, they're highly unstable and probably dangerous but that doesn't stop my baby. Where's the fun in pulling yourself up on something that won't threaten to overturn? Plus if you get a curved one they're great to roll around. Of course, getting one full of neatly folded clothes and tipping it over is THE MOST fun!

Hmm, not sure I'll be suggesting these to the relatives! What weird and wonderful things would your baby want for Christmas?

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Gentleness in a Harsh World

Baby turned 8 months on Friday, and there have already been two occasions when I have looked at his sleeping face and whispered, "What kind of world have I brought you into?"

The first was the evening of the day Jo Cox was murdered. When the politics of hate which we had all seen simmering in the UK claimed the life of a politician who, had she lived, I strongly believe would have been an incredible force for good in our government.

The second time was this morning.

I have been mostly awake since before 2am but held off from looking at my phone until around 4.45am. Trump had just taken Florida. While nothing was confirmed, it was pretty obvious he'd won.

Now the politics of hate is moving into the White House.

Buzzing around my head is a quote which often gets shared around gentle parenting circles:

"It's not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It's our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless." - L.R. Knost

It's a great quote and, while in theory that's what I'm trying to do, in practice I wonder how much good it will do. In a world where good people who have dedicated their lives to charitable work and public service are shot in the street. In a world where arguably the most powerful country elects a racist, ableist misogynist with two court cases pending as President. 

What difference can my two children make? And how do I keep that spark of goodness and love alive in them as they are surrounded with hate? How can my efforts as a mother even begin to make a dent in the cruel and heartless world around me?

I know all I can do is continue to raise my children with all the love and gentleness I have. I only hope that when they're old enough to make a difference there will be enough people raised the same way to help them make this world a kinder place.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Remembrance Day, Refugees and Other Awkward Subjects

Girl Child bought a poppy at school yesterday.

She'd been told on Monday that Year 6 children would be coming round that week selling poppies and was desperate to buy one, and crestfallen when her class missed out on Tuesday. So yesterday she was pleased as punch to be wearing one when I picked her up.

I don't really know how much she understands, or how much her desire for a poppy was driven by that understanding rather than just wanting to have a Thing. But it's a subject that has cropped up a lot recently.

Our route to school takes us past a big stone cross, which up until a couple of weeks ago still had poppy wreaths laid on it from the Somme centenary. So that introduced the subject of why we use poppies as a symbol of remembrance, and what it is we're remembering.

We also walk past the Anglican church, and sometimes cut through the churchyard to avoid the noise of the rush hour traffic. There is a stone porch at the entrance to the churchyard, with the names of local fallen soldiers engraved inside. As Girl Child is a compulsive reader she started reading the names and asked who they were. This was a bit harder than abstract talk about poppies in battlefields - now it wasn't just 'lots of people' who died, those people had names.

I cannot begin to fathom how to explain to my daughter why, for centuries, leaders have thought the best way to solve differences is with killing. How do you tell your 4 year old, who you tell again and again to be kind and gentle, who you tell that hurting others is bad even if it's an accident, that this is how the world works?

It was hard enough talking about wars that happened a long time ago, But she has long been aware of the refugee crisis. She's heard talk of it, and last weekend our church collected items to send to the local refugee centre. She knows that these are people who have had to leave their country because there is a war. I wonder whether she has joined the dots yet between the names of the dead engraved on a wall and the fact that war is still happening.

Because I so desperately want to tell her that this proliferation of poppies is not in vain. That we remember so we learn the lesson, that war is bad, that killing is not the best way to solve problems. But it hasn't worked. There are still wars happening. Not only that, but our country has just decided that cooperation with our neighbours is not what we want, and we are cutting ourselves adrift from a Union that has maintained peace for decades.

She's at school right now, her poppy on her tie, learning to get along with her classmates, to show kindness, to work together. And yet all around us is fighting and intolerance and hard-heartedness. What changes in us as we grow?

When I first told her about all the people without homes because they've had to run away from war, she said they could all come and live with us. When do we lose that sense of compassion and hospitality? Why are there still children (and yes, they are children, no matter how old they look) stuck in Calais with nowhere to go?

And if I don't understand the answers to all these questions, how on earth do I explain them to a 4 year old?

Thursday, 15 September 2016

First Foods and Final Feeds

It has been a month of no longers recently.

I am no longer 'extended' breastfeeding.
I am no longer tandem nursing.
I am no longer exclusively breastfeeding.

The first two I'll admit I'm rather pleased about. Feeding my 4 year old through pregnancy was an uncomfortable experience but even that didn't prepare me for feeding her after the baby was born. I was hoping for a magical bonding experience: I got extreme discomfort and almost a sense of revulsion. The feeling of aversion was overwhelming.

Don't get me wrong, there were perks. In the early days when I got engorged and Baby's tongue tie meant he wasn't feeding efficiently I was very grateful to have a child who had feeding down and could bring some much needed relief. But when things settled down it became toe-curling. Just with her, weirdly, feeding Baby never bothered me.

I started setting limits until eventually we were down to one very short feed in the morning. She started to complain that the milk didn't taste right, or she couldn't get much, and I suggested maybe her mouth was changing shape so it wasn't as easy to keep feeding. (There is some science behind that I think although I was using it rather selectively!) I gently raised the idea that she would eventually be too old to breastfeed, and off her own back she said she'd stop when she started school.


In the end, it didn't even take that long. In mid-August, the day before we went on a 2 night trip to the coast, she had her morning feed then said she was done having mum milk now. When we got back from the holiday she asked a couple of mornings but when I gently said, "I thought you said you were finished with mum milk?" she would happily distract herself playing with Baby. I think one morning she wouldn't be put off, and then one night she woke up and asked for mum milk. That was the last time I fed her, sat on her bed in darkness.

I thought I'd feel sad when she stopped breastfeeding, but the relief of not having to endure the discomfort any more, and the fact I've still got Baby to feed, has meant that I'm actually happy about it. I feel a bit guilty for nudging her towards weaning by putting limits on feeding and planting the idea that she would grow out of it, but in the end she was happy enough to stop and, for goodness sake, I fed her for FOUR AND A HALF YEARS! What the heck is there to feel guilty about in that? I've fed her through teething, developmental leap, toddler tantrums, scraped knees and all the challenges being a preschooler brings. And I do believe it's helped her to be the confident girl she is by giving her a sense of attachment and grounding through these tough early years.

Then a couple of weeks later, Baby turned six months and started eating solid foods. And he loves his food! On the second day of weaning we gave him curry: every time he ran out of food he would bang on his tray and grumble until we gave him more! While it's interesting and exciting to see him enjoy his grub, I do feel sad about the fact I'm not his sole source of nourishment any more. He's my last baby so I will never exclusively breastfeed again. I'll never look at my baby and think, "I grew every ounce of that!" (And he weighed nearly 20lb at six months so that is an achievement I think!)

I know that solid food isn't the end. I know I probably will 'extended' breastfeed again. Heck, if he's like his sister I might have another four years of breastfeeding ahead of me! But coming to the end of so many parts of my breastfeeding journey all at once feels very strange.

I'm so proud of myself for what I have achieved. I think back to the early weeks with Girl Child when I didn't think I'd last a month breastfeeding, and can't believe I managed it. And I'm still managing it. I may not be a great mum most of the time, but if there's one thing I can do well, it's nurse my little ones!

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Summer holidays, starting school and lost opportunities

I had such plans for the last six weeks.

We had a long list of things to do, places to go. We were going to have so much fun. Above all, I was going to shower my 4 year old with love and affection, filling up her bucket with assurance in the hope it would help her to cope with the behavioural expectations school will place on her.

Instead, I seem to have spent much of the holidays stressed, tense, shouty and angry. And her behaviour has got worse, creating a vicious cycle.

What went wrong?

Maybe I planned too much, overestimated what we could achieve whilst still having much needed downtime. Maybe I underestimated how hard it would be to balance the needs of a 4 year old and a baby, even with my husband on hand for most of the time. Maybe we tried to do too much in terms of housework, meaning that one on one time with the kids was too scarce.

And I know I'm probably focussing on the negative. We have had fun. We've spent time with family and friends, been on a lovely (if tiring) glamping holiday to the Yorkshire coast and enjoyed a few day trips too. At times, it's been great.

But the prospect of school has loomed large. I've been preoccupied with getting her ready - getting her to dress herself, go to the toilet in time, eat sensibly. Worrying about how her strong willed, assertive, defiant and mischievous nature will be received by school. Will her self esteem be crushed as she sees her name on the red traffic light again and again? Will her self-perception as a 'naughty kid', started by nursery, become ingrained? Will they see her as a go-getter who will one day use her traits to go far, or as a nuisance who needs to be tamed?

I set myself a gargantuan task in trying to kerb her challenging behaviour in just six weeks, while also looking after a baby, working freelance and trying to get on top of all the jobs that have been neglected since Baby arrived on the scene. And now, just days off starting school, I feel deflated. The opportunities we seemed to have at the start of the summer are now lost, and I've not been the mother I planned to be.

I hope my fears about school are misplaced. I hope that we've had enough good times this holiday for Preschooler (henceforth Girl Child) to have good memories of it. Above all, I hope that she knows I love her unconditionally - even if I shout a lot.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

The REAL reasons why I breastfeed

Apparently it's World Breastfeeding Week this week. I'm usually a bit rubbish at writing posts that are vaguely topical (on account of being a bit rubbish at blogging regularly generally) but now I'm onto my second breastfeeding journey I thought I should mark the occasion.

I love breastfeeding. Getting started first time round was the hardest and most stressful thing I've ever done, but also the most rewarding. I love knowing that I'm giving my baby all the right nutrients, antibodies and other wonderful stuff for his development, and I love the bond breastfeeding gives me with my children.

But there are some less altruistic reasons why I breastfeed. Here's a few:

1. I'm lazy

I hate washing up. When we chose our house the real clincher was the fact that this one has a dishwasher. So the thought of washing bottles every day fills me with dread. Plus I couldn't be bothered getting up to make up bottles in the middle of the night. Nah, that's all too much effort for me.

2. I'm disorganised

Tied to the above is the fact that I actually don't think I'd ever be organised enough to have enough bottles clean for any given day, I'd probably run out of formula pretty regularly and I'd almost certainly forget to bring some essential piece of kit when out and about. Breastfeeding: great for flaky mums.

3. I'm a cheapskate

I've seen formula in the supermarket. Blimey, that stuff is expensive. Plus I'm the girl who used to attempt to make anything I needed before resorting to the shops. At least my milk is actually fit for purpose, unlike the awful handbag I made out of a pair of cords.

4. I'm a bit soft

I love cuddles. I love babies. And I really love cuddling babies. Breastfeeding gives me the perfect excuse to cuddle my baby at regular intervals. Heck, sometimes I pretend he needs feeding just to get another cuddle in. (If my husband reads this: I don't really. Honest.)

5. I like cake

And chocolate. And biscuits. Luckily breastfeeding burns loads of extra calories so I can claim that the mountain of sugary produce I currently consume is essential. And flapjack is made of oats which is good for milk production, so really I should just live on that, right?

What are your selfish reasons for breastfeeding?

Monday, 18 July 2016

They Don't Warn You About 4

They warn you about babies. The sleepless nights, the feeding problems, the developmental leaps and teething troubles.

They warn you about toddlers. The terrible twos (they may neglect to mention that these actually start at about 15 months), the tantrums, the wobbles and falls, Teething Troubles 2: The Nightmare Continues. The fresh hell of potty training.

They warn you about 3. The emergence of the threenager, the relentless questions, the meltdowns, the power struggles. The continued hell of potty training.

They don't warn you about 4.

And actually, they really should.

4 is a sneaky little age. It seems so grown up. 4 year olds are articulate, curious, physically capable. Heck, they're on the cusp of starting school. That all seems pretty mature, right? So this should be a doddle, right?


What you actually have with a 4 year old is a child who can talk far better than they can listen. Who is curious but doesn't know how to reign in their curiosity within acceptable boundaries. Who is physically capable - of pushing away your efforts to hold them, of out-running you, of climbing anywhere thus making it impossible to put anything out of reach.

You have a child who has the outward appearance of being quite big, but the brain of someone still quite little. Their logical brains are still not fully formed but, because they look and sound like rational human beings, we treat them like that - then get frustrated when they act irrationally.

You have a child who, because they can express themselves so well, get cross when their ever-so-articulate expression of what they want is met with refusal, no matter how gently that refusal is phrased. Who is developing their sense of self, meaning they will disagree with you just for the fun of it, or ignore requests and rules, because they want to see what they can get away with. You have a child who can veer from loving and thoughtful to rude and inconsiderate - sometimes in the space of 10 minutes.

You have a child who is probably in some sort of educational setting - 'the big room' at nursery, preschool or even school - where they have to behave in a way they're not really capable of doing consistently yet. They have to sit still, listen, not shout out, not grab that interesting toy - but not keep it for too long when it's their turn either. They're surrounded by other kids and noise and it can all get a bit overwhelming but there's nowhere to break away to. It must be exhausting.

Speaking of exhausted - they're a bit too old for a nap but a bit too young to get all the way through the day, so by bedtime they're getting silly and easily distracted. And it just happens to coincide with the time of day when you're looking longingly at the clock hoping for some peace and quiet and adult conversation once they're asleep, so their dithering and silliness is met with frustration.

And we're not warned of this. This tricky limbo stage between preschooler and 'big kid'. And because we're not warned of it, we worry that it's just our kid, that we've done something wrong. But we haven't. They're fine. They're just 4.

Well if you have a child under 4 I'm warning you now. 4 is hard. But it's also funny and lovely and exciting.

And if your 4 year old can't sit still, or share, or go to bed without a fight - if they still have tantrums, or toilet accidents - if they're loud, argumentative, and pushing all the boundaries - don't worry, they're normal. They're just 4.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

A Tale of Two Birthplaces Part 2: Hospital Transfer

So my last blog post ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. OK not that much of a cliffhanger because I'm clearly fine, but still. I'd had my lovely, dreamed-about home birth, but a postpartum haemorrhage meant I couldn't have my lovely, dreamed-about post-birth experience of cuddling up on the sofa, introducing Preschooler to her brother while he was still hours old, and generally relaxing in my family home. I had to go to hospital.

I went in an ambulance which sounds dramatic but it wasn't really. One of the midwives came with me and I remember feeling awfully rude as she and the paramedic chatted to me when all I was interested in was staring at Baby. After a while we got to the hospital and I was wheeled through to delivery suite. That was a really difficult moment. There I was clutching my baby who I'd anticipated only being seen by immediate family at this stage, and everyone in the hospital waiting room was looking at us. I'll particularly never forget the woman having a fag outside the hospital who stood shaking her head at me, as if I'd done something awful. At that moment I wanted to cry.

I have to admit my whole experience of being in hospital was coloured by the fact that I didn't want to be there. The care was fine - for most of the day the midwife who'd come in the ambulance looked after me so I at least had continuity of care. But what I thought would be a stay of a few hours just got longer and longer. I had to have blood tests straight away then 6 hours after birth, then it was decided I should have IV fluids which meant a longer wait. (Why they didn't give me fluids in between the two sets of tests I don't know.) Baby was brilliant the whole time, feeding well and being really calm, but I was annoyed by everything. The noise, the bed, the vent on the ceiling that wasn't quite straight. I simply didn't want to be there. We video-called my in-laws to show Preschooler her brother - her reaction was a big, “wow!” While that was lovely I couldn't help but feel she shouldn't have had to see him for the first time on a phone screen.

After I'd had my fluids I was transferred to postnatal ward. My midwife had said I should stay for a couple of hours and consider staying overnight, but made it clear the choice was mine. I felt fine and was eager to get home, thinking I'd recover better in my own bed with my own stuff around me. Sadly the moment I was handed over to the hospital staff my wish to go home that evening was met with mild derision. We waited for a couple of hours only to be told that my second blood test results were unavailable due to server problems. More waiting made it clear they weren't going to be back before my husband had to go home, so the choice was taken out of my hands, I had to stay.

That night I was miserable. Baby slept for four hours straight but I was kept awake by the sounds of crying, snoring, noisy conversations and women labouring in the adjacent antenatal ward. I think I got about 20 minutes sleep. All I could think was that if I'd been at home I'd have been asleep, and comfortable - the hospital bed was horrible!

In the morning I made it clear again that I wanted to go home as soon as possible, but was told I'd need to wait for the well baby check and hearing screening, which would mean staying until the afternoon. Luckily my midwife from the home birth team came to see how I was doing and got things hurried along. I video called with my husband and Preschooler, she was really missing me by this point and said she'd asked for mum milk when she woke up. I felt awful for not feeding her the day before, and for not being there for her. When my husband arrived later on he said she was really upset and just wanted to start the day again, get back in her pyjamas and have mum milk in bed like any other morning. I cried thinking about it. By this time all the checks had been done but the midwife in charge of my paperwork was nowhere to be seen - she'd been called away onto another ward. When she returned to go through my discharge she was very apologetic, but by then it was gone midday. Lunch was being served so I quickly ate mine then at last we headed home. My husband went to fetch the car while I sat with the car seat in the waiting area, the one I'd been wheeled through the day before, and I told Baby we were going back to where he was born. It felt strange. But I was so relieved.

It didn't hit me until writing this post just how upset I am about what happened. If I rationalise it I know it was probably for the best that I went, but I still feel so sad and angry that I had to stay so long, especially as I felt fine. To have to wait over a day to introduce Baby to his sister, and to be away from Preschooler for longer than I ever had been before, was painful.

The hospital staff were great but clearly overstretched, and it was frustrating that so much of the delay was down to simple things like test results not being available or staff having to work across two wards. I also felt frustrated by the lack of choice I was given once under the care of the hospital staff - the home birth staff phrased everything as a choice, but the hospital staff seemed much less flexible. But again, that might just be me seeing things through the lens of not wanting to be there anyway.

I hope with time I'll come to accept everything that happened after Baby was born, the birth was such an amazing experience it's sad that the memory of it is tainted by what followed. People will tell me that the important thing is we're both healthy, and that is important, but it's not all that matters. Home birth came as a package in my head - not just labouring at home, but recovering at home too - so having the second half of the deal taken away from me was, and still is, hard to get my head around. The staff in hospital do a great job, but it would be great if they were resourced enough to allow women more choice over their care.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

A Tale of Two Birthplaces Part 1: The Home Birth

It's been a while since I last blogged. That's because, just hours after my last postI went into labour.

I woke up at around 1.30am on Friday 4th March with period-type pains. They fizzled out after a while and didn't return, so I got up to go to the toilet, sneaking a look out of the window before I went back to bed. We were forecast snow and I'd been anxious about whether the home birth midwives would make it to me. Sure enough, snow was falling steadily.  I returned to bed, feeling relieved that I wasn't in labour after all.

After dozing but not really sleeping, the pain returned at 3.25am, then every 11 minutes after that. My husband woke at about 4am and I told him what was happening. We looked outside - thick snow covered the street. Pants. I waited till 4.30am then rang the home birth team to let them know what was going on. The midwife I spoke to was lovely, gave me some advice on managing the pain and said to call again when my contractions were closer together. I stayed downstairs doing some gym ball exercises, but couldn't get comfy so went back to bed, thinking I had ages to go. At this point I was using breathing and visualisations to get through the contractions.

My husband had taken over timings by then and in the next hour and a half the contractions moved closer, to 7.5 minutes, then to 6 then 5. I was still coping mostly with breathing and other relaxation techniques but it was getting harder. I rang the home birth team back at 6am, feeling really bad because I knew that shift change was at 7am. The midwife reassured me not to worry about shifts, suggested I put my TENS machine on and asked me to call again in half an hour.

It took ages to sort the TENS machine out so I'd only just got it on by the time half an hour had passed. Preschooler woke up just before 6.30 and came through for her usual mummy milk, but by this point I didn't feel like I could give her any. We explained the baby was coming and that she was going to her grandparents (who had already been notified). As she went to get dressed, I called the home birth team again and asked for the next midwife on shift to come straight to me. I relocated back downstairs and stationed myself on the sofa, laying on my side as this seemed to be the only vaguely comfortable position I could find.

At about 7am my father in law came to pick Preschooler up, then came the two midwives followed by two taxis bringing their kit from the hospital. I felt really bad as the snow was thick and our street isn't easy to get to in bad weather, but I was relieved everyone had made it and I wasn’t the one braving the elements to get to hospital!

Once the midwives were here I lost all concept of time and just focussed on the task at hand. I was still coping with a mix of relaxation techniques and the TENS, but at some point I started needing to kind of hum through contractions too, which felt a bit daft but seemed to help. I tried going on my knees leaning over my gym ball for a bit and that seemed to intensify the pain, and for the first time I started to panic that I wouldn't be able to do it.

The memories are a bit hazy at this point, I think because I was heading into transition. I remember telling my husband I couldn't do it and saying I was scared. I remember the midwife asking what I was scared of and for a minute I didn't really know, but then I answered that I was scared of tearing again, having suffered a third degree tear in my first labour. The midwives were great at reassuring me but I still kept saying I couldn't do it with every contraction. At some point I felt a lurching feeling. I remembered reading about the foetal ejection reflex, which has been likened to ‘vomiting’ out your baby, and that's exactly what it felt like. I freaked out, realising that I was now in the second stage, and fought the urge to push at first. I felt dizzy, so laid back on the sofa. I asked at one point if I should take my bottoms off which I now realise was a bit of a stupid question!

I started out pushing whilst laid on my side, and my waters broke in that position with an audible pop. I’d gone from squeezing my husband's hand through every contraction to wrapping my arm round his neck and screaming in his ear!! As things progressed we all knew I was in the wrong position for getting a baby out, so I painfully got on my knees and leaned over the back of the sofa. I asked for gas and air as being upright made the pain worse, but in the end I found it too distracting and just had a few puffs, preferring to just brace myself on the back of the sofa. I remembered learning in my antenatal classes that a relaxed jaw helped to relax everything else, so with every push I made a bizarre mooing noise to keep my face and jaw relaxed. I felt like a right plank but it was working!

Pushing seemed to take ages but probably didn't in reality. Having had a forceps delivery first time round, I'd never felt the sensations of actually pushing a baby out before - it was the weirdest feeling ever! It took a few pushes to get the head out and two or three more to get the body out, not quite the speedy delivery the TV shows would have you expect. But then finally my baby boy was being passed to me through my legs! I clung onto his slippery body awkwardly - his cord was really short so it was hard to get a good hold. Turning round to sit down was awkward too but finally we were settled on the sofa, Baby and me, snuggled up together. I'd done it! I'd had the home birth I dreamed of, with just a few puffs of gas and air! I felt like Wonder Woman!

But here's where the two birthplaces bit comes in - I'd planned a natural third stage but wasn't expecting a postpartum haemorrhage. After a bit of trying to get the placenta out naturally it became obvious that I needed help, so I had the injection. The midwives managed to stop the bleeding but I'd lost a lot, so reluctantly we agreed that I should transfer to hospital. After the first breastfeed, one of the midwives took Baby to be weighed which is when I realised why it had taken so many pushes to get him out - he was 4.9kg, or 10lb12oz!

I'll blog about my hospital experience soon, but wanted to say a bit about the home birth first. Despite needing to transfer I have no regrets about choosing a home birth, the way in which the bleeding was dealt with and the quick arrival of the ambulance shows to me that I was very much safe. Being able to look at the very spot my son was born every day is amazing! If I could go back in time I'd probably opt for a managed third stage, but then I don't know if that would have made a difference anyway. Overall giving birth at home was a great experience and something I'll remember happily for the rest of my life!

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Poised and ready

I'm now 40 weeks.

Actually to be precise, 40 weeks and 2 days.

It was at this point in my last pregnancy that I went into labour, although she didn't make an appearance until 3 days later.

So here I am, poised and ready. I'd forgotten what this felt like.

Of course, it's very different this time around. I can't sit around watching box sets and reading, I've got a 4 year old who still needs walking to nursery and entertaining when she's not there. Plus I'm much more mobile this time as shelling out for osteopathy means I'm still actually able to walk unaided which I didn't expect to be honest. So I've been trying to keep myself active in the hope it would bring labour on quicker. No such luck.

Everything the books and articles tell you to get ready have been ready for a while now. My hospital bag (even though I'm hoping not to go to hospital) has been packed for about three weeks, the cot is up, I've got a few meals in the freezer and we're stocked up on nappies. In practical terms, I'm prepared.

But the mental preparation is proving harder. I was quite calm about everything until a few days ago, but now I'm officially past my due date I'm starting to feel anxious. Even though I'm still a long way off talk of induction, I worry about being pressured into it. I worry about the snow that's coming tomorrow and whether that will stop the midwives getting to me in time. I worry that something will happen which will mean I don't get my long-dreamed-of home birth.

And of course I'm now getting the 'still here?' comments from people I see and the 'any news?' texts and calls. Which is only adding to my anxiety. Because I feel like I'm being watched, monitored. That isn't really a good way to feel when you want labour to start.

And that's the thing isn't it? I'm ready for birth, but while I feel anxious, my body isn't ready. But the longer I wait, the more anxious I get. It's just a vicious circle.

I've been taking antenatal classes this time which have included relaxation techniques, and been listening to a hypnobirthing CD at home, so I've been amazingly calm up until now. But now it's just not cutting it. I'm not a patient person, I can't handle the wait!

I suppose it's just a case of taking deep breaths, distracting myself, and remembering that this baby WILL come out eventually. And remembering also that even if I don't get my home birth, it is possible to have a good birth.

How did you cope with the anxiety of waiting? If you have any tips I'd love to hear them!

Linking up with #BlogBumpClub through the Budding Smiles blog.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

As Usual

This morning Preschooler came through to our room as usual, got into bed as usual and had some mum-milk as usual.

This evening, we shared a bath as usual. We washed each other's hair as usual.

And these things got me thinking, how much longer will this be usual for?

As of today I'm 39 weeks and 2 days pregnant. Baby number 2 could arrive any day now. When he does, he'll get first dibs on mum-milk. How will I hold Preschooler off? I probably won't be able to bath with her for a good while, it may even be that she'll start sharing her baths with her brother instead. Will she miss our baths? And when will I wash??!

In an unspecified number of days, nothing will be as usual. Ever again.

And I know that it will eventually be replaced by a new as usual. But I don't know what that looks like yet, and it's a bit scary.

It won't be just the three of us any more.

There'll be a fourth person, one who needs so much attention. The thought that I might not be able to curl up on the sofa with Preschooler and a book, without having to tend to anyone else, makes me sad. I've already mostly relinquished bedtime stories as laying in her bed is too uncomfortable. Am I about to lose all our quiet moments together?

I'm so excited about having another baby, but at the same time I feel a strange sense of melancholy about the changes this will necessarily bring to my relationship with my first baby. No more days of hanging around, just the two of us. No more slow starts to the day with milky cuddles.

How will she cope with all the changes? How will I cope?

When will things get back to 'as usual', and what will that be?

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Gender Stereotypes - They Start in the Womb

Knowing I'm having a boy this time has been quite interesting. When I tell people, the first reaction is invariably, "ooh one of each!" I never quite know how to respond to this because I wasn't really bothered whether it's a boy or a girl. I found out because a) I don't like surprises, and b) I feel weird referring to my child as 'it'. I kind of wish I could have another baby just to show that 'one of each' wasn't my sole aim. (More on why that's not going to happen here.)

I've also heard some interesting comments about what to expect from having a boy. My mum happily affirmed that boys sleep better. This is from a sample size of two boys and one girl - and one of those boys didn't sleep through till he was 4. I've also been told that boys are more confident and boisterous than girls - a 'fact' which, seeing as I already have possibly the most confident and boisterous child ever (and guess what, she's female), strikes utter terror into my heart. Don't get me wrong, I love that Preschooler is brave, tough, extroverted and almost fearless - but it's exhausting to parent and I don't think I could handle a child that's more so!!

I find it fascinating and, if I'm honest, frustrating how babies are attributed certain qualities before they've even exited their mother's body, purely on the basis of their gender. I had a Twitter conversation about this a few months back where someone said that reporting of foetal movements changes once mothers know the gender. But interestingly this can go either way - a lively male foetus will be described as 'rough' or 'boisterous', but a quieter one will be 'lazy'. When pregnant with Preschooler she was VERY lively, painfully so, and when I mentioned this to someone they said she must be a can-can dancer rather than a footballer. Eh?

Much as I love our modern ability to find out the gender before birth, it does seem to have created a culture where we are ready with the gender labels before we're even halfway through pregnancy. There's talk about 'pink bumps' and 'blue bumps', and expectant parents create gender reveal videos themed in pink and blue. My daughter's favourite colour is blue. So's mine. Weird, considering we're both female.

So please, next time someone tells you what they're having, don't rush in with stereotypes. The kid isn't even born yet, give it chance to have its own personality. The only definite difference between boy and girl babies is their relative ability to pee in your face. Fact.

Friday, 12 February 2016

The Accidental Literacy Teacher

It's not what you expect, your 3 year old suddenly starting to read.

But it's what happened to us last year. At first it was the odd word on signs - mainly the word 'no'. She started tracing the letters on street signs and taking interest in text around us.

Then one of her preschool teachers mentioned she was pointing to words and reading them in books. At the time I didn't realise that was unusual, but the teacher's reaction told me that it was a bit out of the ordinary.

One day I went into a charity shop, I went browsing around and found some Level 1 and 2 Biff, Chip and Kipper Books. (Actually under the new grading they were Level 2 and 3 but I didn't know that.) I got them, thinking they'd come in handy when she was closer to 4. She found them and read the lot. She wasn't even 3 and a half at this stage.

We set about finding more Biff, Chip and Kipper books and managed to get a box set of the new levels 4 to 6. We thought that would keep us going until she was at least 5 or 6. By the end of the summer holidays she'd finished the lot. She was still only 3 years 8 months.

From there she just started reading everything. She would happily read her picture books to herself, and would often correct me if I went wrong when I read them to her. She would read text on boxes, packets, the blurb on the back of books, signs in shops. When we went out to eat she could pick her own food from the menu. All the while I was reeling in shock at this bizarre child who was still only semi-toilet trained yet seemed to be able to read almost anything.

She moved to a school nursery in January and they tested her reading. She now has a reading age of 8.9.

She was 4 in December. She has a reading age of more than twice her actual age.


By now you're probably thinking I'm boasting. But I'm not. Because boasting would imply I've had any sort of control over the process, and I truly, honestly haven't. She's done it all herself. Yes, I've read to her since an early age, but she was the one demanding stories as soon as she was able to grab her own book and bring it over to me. To be honest, there have been times when, having read about 20 books (or occasionally one book 20 times), I wished she wasn't so bothered! But apart from reading with her I've done nothing special. No Baby Einstein, no reading programmes, no second language, nada. 

So here I am, suddenly 'teaching' a literate child when I never expected to do that. I figured that she would learn when she started school, that the teachers would take care of most of it and I'd just have to read whatever came home in her book bag. Now I have a preschooler who already has a book bag - and is complaining the stories they give her are too easy!!

It has its annoying downsides. For instance, she has a thing for Pom Bears. (Show me a preschooler who doesn't.) We'd told her that they were to have with lunch only, but then she read that it says 'Potato Snacks' on the bag so wants then as a snack. Yeah, thanks for that. There was also the time she freaked out when I had a satsuma because the packaging said 'Just for Kids'. And she often reads the bizarre self-aggrandising slogans on packaging and asks why it says that, to which I reply, "It's marketing."

It's also a challenge finding suitable reading material for her. She is very sensitive to anything scary, and it's hard finding books intended for 7 or 8 year olds with a subject matter that's appropriate for a 4 year old. 

But at the moment it's not too bad. She's mostly happy to just read her old picturebooks with the occasional chapter book from the library thrown in. At home she's still quite happy to be read to, and that's fine. I don't want to push her. No, really! As someone who passionately believes in the importance of children just playing and delaying formal education, the fact my daughter took it upon herself to learn to read while still a preschooler is actually quite irritating!

So for now, I'm trying to play it cool. At one point I was worried that, having learnt to read by sight, she'd struggle with phonics and was desperately scrabbling round for phonics resources to help her 'catch up' and then I realised how utterly ridiculous that was! She will learn in her own time, as she has with sight reading.

Just turns out her own time was rather earlier than we were expecting!

Did you have a very early reader? How did you find it? What surprises are in store for us?!

Monday, 18 January 2016

Sticking at Two (but wanting more)

I’ve had a Rolling Stones song stuck in my head for the past few weeks. Now obviously that is an awesome state of affairs. But the reason it’s in my head is perhaps not so awesome.

This could be the last time
This could be the last time
Maybe the last time, I don’t know.

I’ve always been drawn to big families. I’m the youngest of three, my Mum is the youngest of five, and I have an impressive array of cousins and second cousins. I love it. I love it to the point where, when I was dating my now-husband, I told him I wanted five kids.

Ever the pragmatist, he managed to talk me down to four. Then to three.

And I was still quite keen on the idea of three until I got pregnant with number two. But this pregnancy has made me realise I can’t do it again.

I know that many women would be aghast at me for saying this but my body is not really made for pregnancy. I have low blood pressure, meaning a first trimester plagued by dizzy spells and fainting. I have always been easily fatigued, meaning I currently struggle to get through a day without a nap. And, probably most importantly, I have a pelvis that just doesn’t behave itself.

In my first pregnancy, I developed Pelvic Girdle Pain (also known as SPD) at around 30 weeks. That was bad enough as by the end I was pretty much housebound. This time I started getting symptoms at 6 weeks. That means I’ve now been in near-constant pain for 6 months. And I’ve around 2 months to go.

Not only is this pretty miserable for me, I feel awful about the effect it’s having on Preschooler. My energetic girl who loves to run, climb and roughhouse is being seriously limited by the fact that Mummy can’t run or even walk fast, can’t bend down, can’t sit on the floor, can’t even have her sitting on her knee some days. Mummy’s too tired in the afternoon to go for a walk or do crafts. Mummy’s grumpy because of the pain and sleep deprivation, so gets irritated by repeated requests to play babies, or school, or Christmas. I feel like I’m letting her down. And I know that I’m doing this to give her the sibling she’s longed for, but I can’t help feeling like it’s not fair on her that she should be so limited because of my rubbish body. If I’m struggling to look after one child whilst pregnant, how much harder would it be with two?

There’s also the fact that I’ve now been a stay-at-home mum for four years. Yes, I work from home, but I don’t feel I can really take off with that until I’m done spending most of my waking hours looking after my children. I want to be able to stay at home with the next child as I have with Preschooler, but I’m not sure I can manage more than five years of trying to fit the other bits of me around that. I feel like my professional life is on hold.

So it looks like we’re sticking at two. This could be the last time I’m pregnant. Part of me feels relieved at that – no more pregnancy sickness, horrendous dizziness, mobility problems etc – but mostly I feel angry at my body for letting me down. And scared that I will forever feel like our family is not quite complete. Of course I love my two children, and I know they will always fill my heart, but I never thought I’d end up with a small family. I feel unbelievably blessed with the family I have, but I’m worried that I’ll always miss the child I didn’t have.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

5 Things I've Learnt About Being Pregnant at Christmas

I know, it's 3rd January now and the Christmas season is nearly over, so I'm a bit behind on this post, but hey, I've been busy! Christmas is swiftly followed by Preschooler's birthday, and the exhaustion of having all that to deal with made a blogging break necessary. But it's not Twelfth Night yet, so there's still time to squeeze in a festive post!

Technically speaking, this isn't the first time I've been pregnant at Christmas, but as last time I was actually contracting throughout Christmas Day (and Boxing Day ... and most of the day after) it didn't really feel like Christmas. So this Christmas really opened my eyes to how different it all feels when you're carting a tiny human around inside you. Here are five things I've noticed:

1. Chocolate is everywhere.

This wasn't such a problem first time round, as then I craved chocolate. (Although Preschooler did turn out to be almost 10lb, so maybe it was a problem!!) This time, however, I have produced a child who hates chocolate. I long for it, but at the same time the very thought of putting chocolate in my mouth makes me queasy.

The trouble is, there's a lot of chocolate hanging around at Christmastime. Especially if you don't manage to spread news of your chocolate aversion to everyone and so end up getting boxes of the brown stuff as presents. Sigh. Time to hide away that Chocolate Orange so it doesn't taunt me from now until March.

2. Alcohol is harder to avoid than you'd think.

I don't drink. I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm completely teetotal, but I can't remember the last time I had an alcoholic drink. So I thought that aspect of a pregnant Christmas wouldn't be an issue. Until of course I got a whiff of the Christmas pudding my mum had bought. Blimey. That stuff was 20% proof, I swear. Which meant I had to pass on seconds, which I NEVER do. Sob. Mind you, that may have been a blessing in disguise because ...

3. My stomach is much smaller right now.

As far as I'm concerned, if you don't have seconds of every course of Christmas dinner, you're doing it wrong. Same goes for the Boxing Day buffet. In fact, most Christmasses I've quite happily had thirds. But with a foetus restricting my stomach capacity, that second plateful of food quickly looked rather foolish. No wonder the poor kid was wriggling so much, can't be easy to get comfy with 2lb of sprouts and roast potatoes squashing your toes.

4. I'm lucky my husband has school holidays off.

Fatigue has been a huge problem for me this pregnancy, and doesn't mix well with looking after a preschooler. It really doesn't mix well with looking after a preschooler who is high as a kite with festive excitement and only actually went to preschool for one day in the last fortnight of term due to a string of stomach bugs and a school closure. Being able to have an afternoon nap most days has been the only thing that got me through the Christmas holidays, so thank goodness my husband is a teacher!!

5. It's all very exciting.

There have been times in this Christmas season when I've felt like me being pregnant has hindered Preschooler's opportunities to enjoy it all. Having SPD meant that I couldn't take her to lots of fun festive events, and when I did I'd be laid up the next day. When I've felt guilty about this, I've reminded myself that next year there'll be someone else celebrating Christmas with us, a lovely 9 month old (ish) baby, and we'll be able to do lots of fun stuff as a family of four. Celebrating the birth of a baby is bound to make pregnant mums reflect on the new life they'll be welcoming into the world shortly, and all the gestational grumps have been balanced out by the excitement of thinking about the new baby we'll be saying hello to in around two months!

I'm linking up this post to #BlogBumpClub over on the Budding Smiles website. If you find me through this, hello! How was your Christmas?