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.

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….!

 

Hush little baby

Hannah is asleep IN HER COT DURING THE DAY. This is remarkable, however I have a delivery due and am on tenterhooks as to whether the doorbell will wake her. By the end of this blog we will know…….

I am still very much the kind of mother who worries that her baby has somehow managed to injure herself or suffocate while I haven’t been supervising her, despite being in a grobag, and not having the ability to walk or even roll over. I probably take it too far – in fact I know I do. I have a video monitor which I check nearly all the time, I do 15 minute checks on her and I will always be suspicious of silence. It’s my OCD way of being on the safe side.

Hannah has always gone to sleep in my arms during the day until recently when I decided that enough was enough and that she would just have to go down in her cot. The house is a tip (see Anna’s earlier post), the bins need to be put out, and more importantly she won’t be able to rely on me to get her to sleep when I go back to work. Easier said than done – it takes a pretty strong woman to listen to a baby crying their heart out because they are tired and want to be held. However I will persevere because, for us, that’s the best thing to do for our girl.

For me “Sleep Policy” is an issue where lots of parents disagree, and that in the end your parenting style will tell you what’s best for your baby. It’s been the toughest thing for me to think through so far. But our sleep policy also got me thinking about the parameters around the daytime sleep – Hannah is the centre of my world, but I don’t turn the TV off, I don’t speak in hushed tones (actually I’m on my own at the moment so I’d be worried if I was shouting) and I haven’t dismantled the door chime. I’m concerned that doing all of those things will encourage poor sleeping habits, and if I’m honest I want to carry on with my day and sometimes that involves noise. I don’t mean to say that the house shouldn’t be quiet and I know that Hannah needs a calm and quiet environment in which to sleep. I have turned the TV down, the curtains in her room are drawn and when I go upstairs I tiptoe as if the stairs are about to fall in. I just don’t want to take it to extremes and I want Hannah to know that Mummy is in charge (or at least tries to be).

There is, of course, an opposite side to the coin. About 2 years ago I was visiting a friend who I hadn’t seen in a while. In fact I had never met her 2 year old boy but I was vaguely surprised when she told me to text her when I was outside her door because her little guy was asleep. When I got in to the house I was asked to whisper instead of speaking normally (I thought this was odd because the little boy’s bedroom was at the other side of the (big) house) and was given special slippers in case I wanted to move from the settee. Am I cruel or mean for thinking that was extreme? Likewise I was amused when she told me that she sometimes affixes notices to her door asking callers to ring her mobile instead of knocking on the door when her son is asleep. I still don’t really understand why she wanted to advertise her mobile number to the whole neighbourhood but each to his own.

For me, so long as you aren’t holding a disco in your front room it should be fine to make a little noise during the day. In fact some noise can help babies – I know some mothers who swear that their vacuum cleaner helps their babies to nod off. I haven’t tried that one yet but I might do. If you have any other tips or advice, do let me know.  I’d be really interested to know which side of the fence people tend to come down on so I’ve added a poll to this blog to find out.

OK, so this post is nearing its end and I am sure you are dying to know whether Hannah is still asleep. When the delivery man came she did stir but then drifted off again so I am yet to discover whether the new sleep policy will work. Lucky me – I now have time to empty the dishwasher….

 

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My three point new Mum style – clothes, hair and the perfect bag! Sophisticated and comfortable in 10 minutes or less.

photo 21)      Stylish options for a Mum on the go (my staple wardrobe items)

The wrap dress: This is probably my favourite. It is easy to put on, easy to adjust for breastfeeding and super comfy for those days you want to look presentable with little effort. The great thing about wrap dresses is, because they pull in your waist, they are flattering on almost everyone and they provide a level of camouflage over your stomach which is personally my biggest problem area since giving birth. Wrap dresses are a great buy and you can find them almost anywhere. No need to spend a fortune on custom designed nursing tops!

The stretch trouser: Most stores sell trousers with stretch, you will find them in different styles and fabrics. Continue reading