How to survive work when your baby doesn’t sleep

1. Arrive early. This will give you a chance to come to before everyone else arrives.

2. Have a sturdy breakfast. You need fuel.

3. When having a conversation, technical meeting, chat over coffee, try to make sure your expression is similar to the expressions of other people involved. It’s easy to forget what your face is doing, and you don’t want to be the one smiling when they’re talking about sacking people.

4. Don’t babble. If you find yourself babbling, right yourself by saying a couple of big words. It’ll get you back on track.

5. Other parents are your allies (unless they have those magical babies who slept through from 3 months…in which case avoid at all costs).

6. Get up. Take a walk around. If you need to, carry some paperwork to make you look busy. Exercise will wake you up, if only temporarily.

7. Trust your brain to come up with the goods when it needs to.

8. Treat yourself. If it’s biscuits, listening to some music, or checking your phone now and then, do it. You need to be nice to you because this is hard.

9. Make the most of the good bits, like the freedom to have lunch when you like and to eat it all yourself without being pestered by someone small and squidgy.

10. Don’t worry about how you look. You probably look better than you think you do.

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Reflections on year one

When I woke up (was woken up) prematurely this morning we went through our usual wake up routine of “I’ll pour the milk, you go and get her”. I took her downstairs and I checked my phone and looked at an app which reminded me that exactly one year ago my husband and I had a huge argument about responsibility and how hard it is looking after a baby. I remember that argument well; I hadn’t slept more than 4 hours for 2 months, my boobs were full and sore, our house was a chaotic mess of baby and boxes (we’d recently moved in) and my daughter wouldn’t stop crying. I can even remember thinking that there was no way that our marriage would last……well I am happy to say that it’s a little over a year since our tiny bundle of joy entered the world and we are still very much together, and very happy. Other things which have surprised me:

1. I have discovered a new kind of tiredness. Bad news- the tiredness never ends; you just learn to cope with it. Actually, you just find a new kind of tiredness.

2. Babies fart. I didn’t realise this (I know I’m stupid) and it came as a big shock when she did her first blow off. I have also regressed and joined my daughter in finding farts funny again.

3. I don’t feel guilty about going to work. I know some mothers do, but I dont. I adore my girl and I wish that I could spend more time with her, but I’ve got used to sending her to nursery and get a huge rush every day when I pick her up. It’s wonderful knowing that she has had a great day of playing and learning with people who are more experienced in child development than me, and I enjoy my dual role of pen pusher and mother again. I even don’t mind that my daughter has a girl crush on one of the nursery nurses – Zaneta that’s you- because I know that Mummy is number 1.

4. Work is better. I work because I have to. When I went back, I went back to the same job. It’s satisfying and rewarding to me, and I make more of an effort than I did before- mainly because I want to, whereas before I felt that it was just sort of expected. However, as I explained to my manager just before my mid year appraisal I don’t really care anymore, which makes my decision making more rational. Or something like that.

5. I am not heartbroken when my baby cries. I find it quite annoying sometimes. It’s heart breaking when she is hurt or in pain, and I want to make it all better for her, but when it’s a case of “I want the remote control” or something like that, it’s irritating.

6. I am superwoman. I don’t think that my husband realised this when he married me, and I certainly didn’t reveal my powers to him until I gave birth. I have the power to reproduce. The power to comfort a screaming baby. The power to put a baby to sleep. The power to maintain a clean(ish) house, a full time job, a full-up husband, and a baby that is still alive after 13 months of being assigned to us.

7. How amazing she is. I thought that would die down a bit, but every time I look at her she has a new expression, or does something that I didn’t know she could do, or when she responds to something I didn’t think she’d understand, I get a huge rush of love and just want to pick her up and cuddle and kiss her. This happens practically on a second by second basis.

I love my new life. It’s totally weird and different, and there is plenty I would change, but I love it. Thank you my little miracle baby.

Going back to work….

I thought I’d leap in and write a blog post about going back to work and putting my daughter in nursery following the great posts of my gorilla mums friends.  It’s so hard knowing what to do and each solution has to be the right one for you and your family.  It’s been a while since I’ve posted and that’s precisely because I just haven’t had any spare time and when I do have a brief moment of opportunity I try to use it sleeping!

For me and my husband there really was no option.  I had to go back to work and I had to go back full time – we both did.  For us, when I became pregnant, the most sensible thing to do was to sell our cute flat and buy somewhere that could happily accommodate a baby, so we moved and bought a house.  That increases the mortgage, the outgoings, paying for the baby etc….  Anyway enough of the justification.

We were incredibly lucky to have found a nursery that we were happy with when I was just 5 months pregnant because (a) the place for her didn’t become available for over a year later and (b) I knew it was an excellent place and just the kind of care I wanted for her because my nephews had gone there before they moved to Singapore. 

She’s there 4 days a week; I look after once per fortnight on  the remaining day (I work full time but work compressed hours) and my parents or my husband looks after her once per fortnight.  It’s exhausting but it’s the best solution for us and I can honestly say that it’s one of the best things we’ve done for her.

I had a melt down about a month before my maternity leave ended and ranted to my friends about how unfair it was that my baby wasn’t ready to be separated from me and that I was an awful mother, but in fact I think the reverse is true.  It’s me who wasn’t ready to be separated and actually I think I’m turning out to be a pretty reasonable mummy – and our daughter is turning out to be a happy, feisty and well developed little girl.

The days are most certainly long – she’s waking up at 5.30am and since I mentally don’t switch off properly until about 10.30pm that usually adds up to a very tired woman pretending she doesn’t have bags under her eyes and trying to pull off the impression of a diligent and capable senior policy manager.  I am without fail on the 7.38 train every day, have 20 minutes for lunch, and around 4 policy/personnel meetings per day. Yet my 8.25am – 4.30pm working day (with top ups in the evening) is not the longest part. The longest part of my day is undoubtedly the walk from the station to the nursery – it takes 15 minutes but as I turn the corner to the road where it’s located I break into something of a frantic walk (I must look like a mad chicken on speed and dressed in a suit) and reach my hand out to knock on the door long before it is able to make contact with it.  I’m not kidding – I’ve tripped a couple of times.  And there I am, excited and giddy as a schoolgirl and with arms outstretched, at 5.40pm  to cuddle my girl.  The walk home is fun – she’s excited to see me too and we have a play at home for about 30 minutes before she’s ridiculously tired and it’s bed and bath time. We don’t see her much during the week but those 30 minutes are magical and those bedtime cuddles are the best in the world.

Weekends are precious.  It’s not just us who love her and want to see her, and we have the usual household stuff to do and people we want to see too, so packing everything us and having family time is difficult – there’s no two ways about it.  And I miss seeing my friends and their babies too, and having a tidy and ordered house, and spare cash to spend on this and that.

I tell you what though, I wouldn’t change it.  Yes, of course I would love to see more of my beautiful daughter and yes, I could definitely do without all of the stressed that I’ve just described above. The Fridays I’ve had off with her are brilliant.  But to be honest I enjoy work and, for me, I want to work and see that as part of being a positive female role model for my daughter (nb I know there are lots of positive female role models).  I’m mentally stimulated, I have friends at work that I can whinge to, and I believe I’m more rounded and fulfilled for being there.  But – crucially – the most important benefits are my daughter’s.  She absolutely loves nursery – she’s very very happy there.  Yes she is excited to see me when I pick her up, but I’ve also seen how happy she is when she thinks I’m not there too.  She spends her time there being cuddled, playing, copying the older children and having regular sleep and healthy food.  She’s learned to stand, crawl and cruise far more quickly than we expected her to; she’s communicating more confidently; and she’s learning far more social skills than she would have done if I had been caring for her full time.  She’s not as dependant on me or my husband and is generally much more tolerant of new people, she sleeps without a fuss (usually) and eats like a trooper.  She goes for regular walks, feeds ducks, learns about flowers and trees… the list goes on.  I know I did some of this with her before when it was just us, but rather than seeing nursery as a childcare solution I now see it as an investment.

My heart breaks every time I leave her.  I spend all day at work wanting to see her and missing her.  I think about her all the time and, frankly, just don’t care very much about things at work that used to stress me out.  . As I type this she is being cuddled to sleep by her daddy and it’s images like that which come to mind and almost make me cry when some idiot is being annoying about a deadline at work. Every day, the best part of my day is seeing her. I adore my girl and the best part of my day is seeing her.  I applaud those women who stay at home to look after their little ones.  Their reasons are as valid as mine and if being a mother has taught me anything it’s that one size does not fit all – mothers and their babies are all different.  But for us, this is the best way.

Deciding to stay home after maternity leave, my YOUNIQUE experience!

This has been one of the biggest decision of my life. Deciding to put my career as a corporate lawyer on hold to stay home with my daughter. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly and I knew that in making it, I would need to find ways to supplement our income and help support my family. What would I do? What would become of my career? Would my education go to waste? Would my daughter suffer for not having the experience of socializing at nursery school everyday? These were all questions running through my mind. It was not going to be an easy decision…

After months of thinking about it and speaking to everyone I could think of that would have insight into life as a stay at home mum, I made the decision to put my career on the back burner and stay home with my daughter. I decided to enroll her in as many baby activity groups as possible that she and I could attend together which meant we could both socialize with other mums and babies regularly. This has been great as I have not only made great friends, but Izzie is getting used to other babies and I find she is learning to be less possessive of me. 

In terms of my career, I am very fortunate that I had this as an option as I know many mothers out there would love to be able to stay home but for whatever reason cannot. I also know that there are many women out there who are grateful for the respite and adult socialization that their career provides them so they choose to return to work. For me it was definitely a toss up, I love being a lawyer and I LOVE being a mum. It was not easy. I would still need to earn a supplemental income to help with our monthly outgoings and I needed to figure out how I was going to do that and fast.  

Once Izzie and I had settled into our routine, I began thinking about all the ways I could contribute to our household income. I spent a lot of time focusing on home based businesses and asking all of my friends their opinions on the different possibilities. It needed to be something I could do in my spare time when I wasn’t chasing a little one around, feeding, changing and bathing her.  I have focused a lot of my time on researching home based businesses and I am even looking into the possibility of developing on some of my entrepreneurial ideas. It’s been a lot of fun exploring all the possibilities and coming up with my list of options. What have I chosen to do?! Well, I have decided to put my business mind and entrepreneurial spirit to good use and start my own businesses! Yep! That’s right! business(es!). My main source of income at the moment in my business with Younique Cosmetics and Skincare. I absolutely love working with and selling Younique! In addition to Younique, I am also in the process of launching a number of other businesses. It’s an exciting time and I love that I am taking control of my future and building my own dream rather than someone else’s. 

I never thought I would be able to do it. I have completely surprised myself and I am so proud to say that I am now well on my way to finding success in my own right. It’s amazing!

If you are interested in learning more about my YOUNIQUE journey, please feel free to contact me through my website: http://www.youniqueproducts.com/breejamiesonholloway

 

 

 

 

GUEST BLOG: Going back to work after having kids

Before I became pregnant with Robyn, I had always thought that I would go back to work full-time, put my child in nursery, and be able to progress with my career as I had planned. But soon after I became pregnant and my research into said-childcare began, I discovered the ridiculous costs that would go into sending my child into the care of people I did not know and who would eventually spend more time with her on a weekly basis than I would… and I had a slight panic attack.

‘How will my one year away from work affect my career progression? Do I want to go back full-time? Can we afford childcare?’ These were only some of the questions running through my mind before going on maternity leave… and then something I decided to put on the back-burner once Robyn was born, as I had a few other pressing things to think about (like a new baby that I had absolutely no idea how to take care of!).

About six months into my maternity leave, I began to think about what I really wanted. I had launched into a home based business which was doing really well for mums that I knew, but I struggled to keep this going for myself. I originally began this venture to give myself the option of staying home with Robyn, and it really appealed to me. I wouldn’t have to pay for childcare, I would be around for all the major events in her life, and I wouldn’t have to worry about a commute into London.

Unfortunately, our financial situation dictated that I went back to work, and this led to a frantic search for childcare. The cost of child-minders and nurseries in my area is astronomical, and would not have been worth me going back to work. Fortunately, my mum-in-law who lived only 15 minutes away, was happy to take care of Robyn, and at a much lower cost than any other childcare option. It was a win-win situation – Robyn would get to spend time with her nan, and we could save money on childcare while also supporting my husband’s retired mum.

My first month of work was a struggle, both emotionally and mentally. Robyn was not used to being away from me so when I would drop her off, she would burst into tears, reaching for me… and the guilt I felt was almost unbearable. However, I needed to put that feeling to the side so I could get back into the swing of work things… and while some things I was able to pick up easily again, other things at work took a bit of a learning curve to get back into. I do not know if it was the fact that I was away for a year or if my mind was just preoccupied by other priorities, but there were certain aspects of work that were more difficult to grasp than they used to be. This then led to the feeling of insecurity, of whether I was still actually good at my job and whether I did deserve to be there… And after a day of work like that, I would then return home to my child who spent the entire day crying for me. Oh the guilt.

It was that constant battle – trying to be a great employee while at the same time trying to be a fantastic mum. And if I succeeded at one, it was at the expense of the other. How exhausting… It is true that mums do go through a lot of guilt going back to work. We feel guilty putting anything else above the priority of our families, but at the same time, we try to be the best at work, but feel guilty when we have to leave right at 5pm to pick up our child.

The first few months (well, really the first year) back at work was a struggle. My team had increased in size so I was supporting double the amount of people and work than before, the pace of work was much faster, the amount expected of me was much more and I was not meeting expectations… and to top it off, I was struggling with a toddler who was having problems sleeping through the night, trying to get housework and a social life and time with my family all squished into three days…

My struggles at work definitely impacted my home life. I would come home in a terrible mood, and I hated the way I was with my husband and daughter. I was not liking this person I was becoming…

But eventually, Robyn settled in with my mum-in-law, her sleeping habits became regular (or else I became accustomed to interrupted sleep), work began to get better… and life began to have a bit of balance.

Would I ever give up work to be a stay-at-home mum? I see so many of my mum friends who love staying at home and are so grateful that they are able to, and I am happy for them. For me, personally, I do like having a job to go to where I can use my brain and have time dedicated to thinking about things other than, ‘What activity should I do with Robyn today? How can I keep her occupied? Why isn’t she eating today? Why is she having such a tantrum today? Can I get five minutes to myself?’

I feel that I have achieved (or on the way to achieving) that balance of work and life. I am now at a new job working closer to home and for only three days a week. I have a job where I do feel appreciated and acknowledged and challenged. I am so much less stressed than at my previous job, and even my husband has noticed how much of a good mood I am in nowadays. I get Mondays and Fridays with Robyn AND the weekends, and I get to indulge her in things like JingleBops and Baby Bear Ballet as well as playdates (which I truly enjoy and cherish), and still get time to clean the house (obviously this is never going to be 100% perfect but it’s the effort that counts!) and see other friends.

I almost feel bad saying I need time away from Robyn, but all of us parents do think it. We do need some time away from our children in order to recharge ourselves and our sanity. We were adults and individuals before we had children, and it is important to be able to keep hold of at least part of that. And now, because I do have that time away from Robyn, each moment I do spend with her is that much more special. I pick her up from her nan’s and we cuddle on the couch at home for a half hour before I bathe her and put her to bed, and she tells me about her day (as an almost three-year-old can do).

And I do feel grateful that I can have the best of both…

Child un-friendly places

My little family has had a lovely day overall today. We had some good friends over for Sunday dinner, we saw their gorgeous little boy and met their adorable baby girl for the first time, and had a walk in the park. When they left we went to town to get some more baby milk and decided, as it was such a pleasant day, to stop in a pub on the way home – one which we had been to before on our own and wanted to revisit with our little girl because it had a lovely beer garden. We were about half way through our drinks when we got chucked out because our calm, happy and cheerful little girl had the cheek to be a baby rather than a grown up.

Now, I’m not against pubs, restaurants etc. that have a no-baby policy. There are some well-known bars which I have been to in the past specifically because they have had an over 25s policy and I didn’t want to get surrounded by a bunch of teenagers getting blotto over alcopops when all I’ve wanted was a quiet drink. Likewise, I used to be – and in fact still am – the kind of person who HATES going into a pub, restaurant, whatever and having to listen to a child kick off. At the end of the day pubs and restaurants are, by and large, for adults – unless they are marketed as being for families – and so it’s irritating when all you can hear is MUUUUUMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!! or a cry that just never ends. That’s not what we pay £4 a pint for and that is why when, we have managed to get out with our baby (which is often a massive effort anyway) we leave when she starts to kick off. Other people may disagree but we think that is the right thing to do.

So you can imagine how upset we were when, after a wonderful day, we stopped for a drink in this pub, found a quiet spot away from others, and parked our happy little daughter’s pram in the corner. She was no trouble at all and yet we were still asked to leave despite the place being virtually empty. The only other people around were a bunch of 50+ people who had clearly been drinking in the sunshine all afternoon and were a bit lairy as a result. Who was more likely to cause a problem???

When I left I told them that they need to erect a sign saying that families aren’t welcome. The sad part for them is that we will never be back and that the pub down the road welcomed us with open arms so will probably see us back there at some point. The sad part for us is that our lovely afternoon was spoilt and that we were made to feel scummy and embarrassed for wanting a quiet drink with our daughter.

The pub in question is the Park Tavern in Eltham and is the only place I’ve been to with my daughter where we’ve not been made to feel welcome.

The generation game

I was reading the two guest blogs and they got me thinking about the differences between having a baby now and when our Mums and Grandmas had babies.  You would think, really, that there wouldn’t be too many of them – after all, babies are still babies (they haven’t evolved in some Darwinian way to feed themselves or anything) and mothers are still mothers.  The human race continues and women have babies every day – apparently there were 138 million births in 1980 and there have been around 134 million each year since.  Just think how many nappies that is….

That brings me to the first difference. Nappies (diapers, that is.  We Brits call them nappies, which make me laugh because in other parts of the English speaking world a nappy is a napkin. Believe me you wouldn’t want to wipe your mouth with one of my daughter’s nappies…..).    Disposable nappy, how I love thee.  Not because of your contents (although bizarrely I do get pleasure out of changing the smelly ones) but because you can be thrown away when used.  Now, just before I had by baby I had this vague fantasy that I would be some kind of eco mother and use reusable ones.  HA HA HA.  Frankly I don’t know how my mother coped with the old terry ones.  My poor Nana had 5 children – I can’t imagine the amount of disgustingness she had to go through with those bad boys.  Earth, I am very sorry that I am clogging you up with my daughter’s skanky poo receptacles.  I will try to save you in a different way.

Next difference – support.  I mean human beings, not boulder holders/bras (although actually things have improved in that department too).  I suppose my Mum had relatively little of this; she is an only child and lived miles away from her family when I came along, and my dear Grandma died when I was just 8 months old.  She had her friends of course, but I think that most women of her age, and certainly most women of my Grandma’s age, lived fairly close to family and friends they had known for years.  So if the darling little baby was screaming its head off Mum, Grandma or the next door neighbour (whose name and clothing size you inevitably knew in the 1980s) could relieve you, or at least cook you a nice stew. The world is more mobile now and it’s not always the case today, so there aren’t as many people to help out – though to be fair it’s easier to chat on the phone and computer than it used to be.  So now we have various groups that we can join and this fantastic blog to help us stay in touch and get that vital support we all need.

We are also blessed with a far more developed health care system.  When my parents were born expectant Mums only went to hospital when their baby was coming because there was something wrong.  Everyone else was born at home – National hospitals were a really new thing. In fact my Dad remembers his brothers being born in the room next to him – now that would be some scary stuff for an 11 year old boy to listen to….. Now, whether you choose a home birth or not, and whether or not you think hospitals could be better, and whether or not your midwife is bonkers, our babies have a far greater chance of survival simply because of the decade they were born in.

Another thing which I am personally very thankful for is fertility treatment – that’s how we ended up with our little girl.  It didn’t exist back then (mind you neither did contraception in any great way) so if you couldn’t have children you were stuffed.  The world will certainly be thankful when she grows up to be some fantastic inventor of wonderfulness that saves the planet from all of the nappies that she filled that got sent to landfill.

I could go on and on and on about the differences but, when it comes down to it, I’m not really convinced that having a baby in the 2010s is actually all that better.  Life was simpler and more straightforward then, and it seems that modernity and choice just give rise to complexity and confusion.  Take childcare, for example.  Mother who stays at home vs mother who goes to work – what’s best?  Should Daddy stay at home instead?  Should Mummy work part time?  Get a job closer to home?  Who looks after the baby when she is working – nanny, nursery, childminder, grandparents…. I understand from my Mum that when she was a little girl my Grandma expressed an interest in finding a job and Grandad had a really hard time understanding why- her job was looking after my mum and the house and although Grandad’s job wasn’t fantastically paid it was enough to keep them all in food and clothes and have a drink at the weekend.  I can just imagine how the conversation would go now if I said “Husband, I want a job” and he said “Wife, no”.  “WHAAAATTTTT?  WHYYYYYYYY?  I HAD YOUR BABY, I NEED SOME INDEPENDANCE, I DIDN’T MARRY YOU FOR THIS, I AM MORE THAN JUST A BABY MACHINE YOU *SSHOLE!!!” (I hasten to add that this isn’t an actual conversation). Stuff might even get smashed and there would definitely be an argument.  Actually I don’t have a choice now – kind of ironic when you think that when I was born you would have to resign from the job I’m in if you got pregnant – though I still think I would work if I did have a choice.

Anyway enough of my ramblings.  We don’t, of course, have a choice in all of this unless someone has invented a time machine.  But I think that, for me, there are a lot of advantages to having a baby now as opposed to back then that’s only because we have learnt from people who have done it before us – so perhaps it’s worth reflecting on it a bit more before we have to learn the hard way…..

Let me know what you think about which era was best for having a baby in by voting in this poll….!

 

Guest Blog – A Grandma’s perspective

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When our first grandchild was on its way, both my husband and myself were naturally very excited and full of anticipation about all sorts of things from “will the baby be alright”, “what would he/she look like”, how would my son and his wife cope as first time parents. We knew we’d love our grandchild whatever, but what I didn’t anticipate was the deep overwhelming love I had for this little bundle! He was the most perfect being in the whole world and meeting him for the first time was a most special moment. Each time I enquired how my gorgeous little boy was, my son would reply “I’m fine mum thanks”!
Two years later, our second grandson was born. Again a perfect, beautiful baby boy. The love we felt for our first grandson and still do, was replicated and every time I held him I couldn’t stop kissing him. This still applies six years on!
A few months ago our daughter gave birth to a little girl. Due to complications I worried that perhaps something might be wrong with the baby. We knew the she was a girl and we were delighted, particularly as we already had two stunning boys. We needn’t have worried; she was a healthy weight, perfect and so beautiful, like her cousins. We adore her. Like her brother, my daughter always replies to the question “how is my beautiful girl” with “I’m good mum thanks”! My grandchildren were now the centre of attention whereas previously it had been my own kids. Although I knew I would always treasure our little ones, it came as something of a revelation to find that the love I had for them was as strong as the love I had for my own children.
Until it was pointed out to me, I didn’t realise that in the rush to see and cuddle my grandchildren, I’d almost wrestle my kids to the ground to get to them. An outing in the pushchair became a race to get to push them first. Good job the kids have a sense of humour.

Like other grandparents, we spoil the little ones behind their parents’ back when we get the chance! If I had any advice to parents, I would say try and be tolerant and don’t object when grandparents do this. We don’t have them full time so the time we do spend with them is precious. We are lucky enough to have children who believe their kids’ lives are enriched by grandparents and encourage us to be involved. Try and remember that although you as parents are the centre of your child’s world and love him/her like no-one else, don’t underestimate a grandparent’s feelings. Another piece of advice, if circumstances allow of course, is to be completely fair and give equal access to both sets of parents. Not to do so could cause resentment and might not be in the best interests of the child.

As grandparents, though, beware of the inclination to criticise or interfere in any way. Remember the professional advice given to new parents these days is totally different to when our children were babies. For example I was advised to put my own children on their tummies to sleep. Unthinkable nowadays.

In conclusion I am very aware that not everyone’s circumstances are the same. However, I personally love being a grandma and would go to the ends of the earth for my two gorgeous boys and my beautiful little girl. In fact we have on two occasions, when my grandsons have literally been at the other side of the world where they temporarily live. So, make the most of the support grandparents can give, be patient with any differences and remember, we didn’t do such a bad job in bringing you up!

Guest Blog from a brand new mum: Things I’ve learnt in the past 5 weeks

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We’ve made it to the 5 week mark and as things have started to settle down, I’ve done a Carrie Bradshaw and got to thinking about what I’ve learnt… if anything.

Shiny things – Like Magpies, babies love shiny things. You can try all you want to get your newborn to look at your face but unless you have wrapped yourself in tinfoil they won’t be interested. Family members may encourage you by saying “She recognises her Mummy” whilst pointing the baby in your general direction but you know the truth. If she does actually turn her head to look at you, you feel a flicker of warmth and then you realise…. you are sitting in front of a photo frame or a mirror or a particularly reflective light fitting. The same goes for windows and people with dark hair and ‘ghosts’ as I read on one forum. Not a big deal but don’t patronise me by saying she’s looking at me.

Boredom – Years ago I was holding my friend’s newborn and I shared this gem with her: “Newborns are boring, aren’t they?” She looked at me like I’d called her baby a gremlin and took said gremlin back immediately, just in case I dropped it out of boredom. Touché. Now that I have a newborn of my own, I cringe at my remark to that glowing new mother and as I hold my gorgeous daughter in my arms, I think….. I was totally right! Newborns are well boring!! There’s only so much staring at her face I can do before reaching for my phone/the remote/some food.

I didn’t really do myself any favours, my daughter was a stubborn little wotsit and clung to my uterine walls until she was evicted at 41+5. That meant that I had 6 weeks of maternity leave before she even showed up where I mainly stayed indoors and watched trashy TV. But that was okay because ‘soon I was going to be really busy!’ When we took her home, I found myself staying indoors and watching trashy TV. Sigh! Sure there was the nappy changing and feeding but newborns sleep …….. a lot……. “Why didn’t you get out and about?” I hear you say. “C-section!” I shout back at you. That meant no driving because you use your abdomen to drive a car, oh no wait, I have no idea why I wasn’t allowed to drive. Anyway, I kept going on walks but wouldn’t get too far. I was like Harry Potter – if my scar started to hurt, I knew something ominous was about to happen – so I would head for home having filled a measly 15 minutes.

So quiet frankly, prepare for the boredom; book in visitors, get lots of snacks, take up a hobby (A one handed hobby – this is where CandyCrush comes in useful) find a box set to get into or watch lots of trashy TV. Comfort yourself with the knowledge that the boring times won’t last forever (We’re now mobile and much happier) and all of that time indoors with your newborn is useful – it has helped you become an expert on hoarders and 600lb people.

Don’t have any expectations about the birth and you won’t be disappointed – This one particularly irritates me because I was very much blasé about the whole birth thing. I didn’t make a birth plan and had the opinion of ‘There are many ways that my baby can come into the world so there’s no point worrying about it.’ This attitude made me very accepting of the fact that in the end, I had to have a c-section. However, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that my baby and I would be separated and for a long time. I vaguely entertained the notion that they might have to go into special care but I never put that scenario together with the c-section scenario which resulted in me being immobile and my baby being on the other side of the hospital fighting for her life. Bad times. She’s fine now by the way. Good times. I had visions of my family coming onto the ward, me with my bundle of joy in my arms being showered with praise and love and champagne. Actually, my mum turned up when my catheter was being taken out and couldn’t hold her grandchild for 8 days to reduce the chance of infection. I’m not saying you should expect awful things to happen because they probably won’t, but just realise that your ideal scenario is just that, an ideal, and we don’t live in an ideal world. However….

You might get lucky –  I hate being asked “How is she sleeping?” for the ridiculous reason of my having to answer “She sleeps really well.” Ditto “Are you tired?” because I have to respond “No.” I feel like people think I’m lying to show them up or I’m a fraud, I’ve broken some kind of new parent code. However, she does sleep really well. When we first met her she was an incredibly sleepy baby, doctors said this was a recovery sleep to sleep off the effects of the hypoxia. After 4 days she was still sleepy but I was told to wake her every 3 hours to feed her. Then someone else told us to demand feed. I of course listened to their advice because it meant no more waking her, and me, every 3 hours. So, we put her to bed and then we went to bed, I turned my alarm off and rolled over. 6 hours later, I sat bolt upright thinking she had died! She hadn’t.  I fed her and put her down where she slept another 3 hours. This is how it has been since day 13 other than the 3 nights where she slept right through 10-6. I know we are very lucky, I can’t explain it, all I know is that I expected to feel like a zombie and actually I wake up most mornings feeling refreshed. Before you hate me too much, be comforted by the fact that I find it very hard to enjoy it. Typical. Cruel fate has me waking up and looking at my watch and instead of being pleased, I panic that she has overheated or dehydrated, or overheated AND dehydrated AND I can’t shake the ominous feeling that it could be something to do with the hypoxia……

Overwhelming love – Something that I was told lots but was of little comfort to me when it was actually happening was “Don’t worry if you don’t feel an overwhelming sensation of love for them straight away.” Lots of people do, lots of people don’t. I definitely did not. I didn’t see her come out, all I saw was them hold up this slumped, wizened, blue, grumpy old man caked in poo, lots and lots of poo. She went out of sight and got resuscitated, then she came back so “Mummy could have a cuddle”. Mummy didn’t have a ‘cuddle’. Mummy was lying down whilst a surgical team did the Handjive whilst holding her internal organs. Mummy just poked her nose and said “Hi”.

I then didn’t see my baby until 20 hours later, by which point I was beginning to doubt I’d even had a baby. Don’t get me wrong, I liked her, I thought she was really pretty and I liked holding her but she didn’t feel like mine, I had no affinity with her. I was worried about her and scared for her but didn’t mind leaving her and going back to my ward. I definitely loved going and getting coffees with my husband and not having to change her nappy. On day 5 she got moved into a room with me, no more nurses, “This is it” I thought, ” Bonding time!” but I just went through the motions for the next week or so, doing everything I knew I had to do but not knowing why. I worried a lot that I was a crappy Mum and a bad person and that because of this I was more likely to leave her outside Tesco or drop her or put Strongbow in her bottle, I’d already given her a dummy, where was it going to end!?  Slowly day by day we got to know each other and each day I loved her more than the day before and it all started making a bit more sense. I genuinely think it has only been in the last week or so that I’ve got to the point where I can say “I love you” to her and actually know that I really do. I can tell that I do in the strangest of ways. I hear a song on the radio and it makes me think of how I feel about her, I don’t listen to what my husband’s saying because I just want to tell him about the poo she did earlier and I can’t watch Jeremy Kyle anymore (Shame.) because I’m so scared that someone will break her heart. However I know that if that happens, I will be there to rip out their eyeballs and burn them. This is overwhelming love.

I’ve become one of THOSE mothers!

I would NEVER give my child a dummy/soother.

I would NEVER feed my child from a jar or pouch.

I would NEVER let my child cry.

I would NEVER let my child leave the house in her sleeper.

I would NEVER leave the house with messy hair and no makeup just because I have a baby.

Do any of these sound familiar?

Prior to having Izzie I had a million preconceived notions of what I would be like as a mother. In my mind it was all wonderful  and I never had a stray hair or a bad day. I was just happy because I was going to have a baby and to do anything wrong would mean I was ungrateful for that gift I was being given and it would mean that I was not a “perfect” mother (inconceivable!). I would find myself walking in public actually judging other mothers in my mind for all the things they were doing “wrong”, I would NEVER become one of THOSE mothers. I was even guilty of doing this with my nearest and dearest and thinking back now the fact that I ever had those judgmental thoughts is really shameful and frankly quite naïve and pathetic.

Becoming a mother for the first time is daunting to say the least. You are on the steepest roller coaster and learning curve of your life and no matter how much advice people give you, ultimately you end up just having to figure it out on your own. You end up doing what works for you and usually those are the things that make life easier – “anything for an easy life” I can hear my husband saying. After all, why complicate matters. Isn’t it about doing the very best for your children and having a lot of fun doing it?!

The thing is, I know for a fact that I am not alone in this. I have had numerous very honest conversations with other new mums who have openly admitted to having been just as judgmental. I’m sure that some of you reading this will be internally acknowledging that this was or still is you. The lesson we ‘judgers’ all need to learn is that being a mum is hard work. Judging each other is so counterproductive. We should be each other’s biggest fans! I’ve never been able to completely understand why we as woman always seem to have an opinion about what others are doing wrong. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a primal instinct in that we are all innately fighting to be the most “perfect” woman, but perhaps it’s a simple as jealousy and envy as so many say it is. Whatever the reason behind this judgmental nature we seem to possess, we really need to work to change it. Why shouldn’t we be each other’s biggest fans?!

Since having Izzie my perspective has definitely changed. I feel I have in fact become enlightened to the trials of motherhood and it’s almost never easy! I have found my mummy friends to be my biggest supporters, I absolutely adore listening to their differing opinions and approaches to every aspect of child rearing. They have helped me to be confident in establishing a routine that works for our family and I know I always have them to bounce ideas off of. I am definitely their biggest fan and I can honestly say that in becoming a mother, I no longer look at another woman and judge her for how she chooses to raise her children. Instead I think about the things she is doing which I should perhaps try. Guess what?!? Sometimes, she’s right! I for one have proudly and quite intentionally become one of THOSE mothers.

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