Cave women: A perfect model of motherhood?

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As far as I can tell, ‘attachment parenting’ seems like a good thing to do. Though I’m not really into ‘parenting philosophies’ (the very term makes my skin crawl, tbh) I think keeping your baby close etc sounds pretty lovely and I know a lot of people that it really works for. I mean, some of it’s defo not for me. Your kids sleep in you bed? For as long as they like? Like, every night?? Er, thanking you kindly, but no. However, the whole emotional-bonding-closeness-communication stuff is fab. Obvs.

Like any ‘parenting philosophy’ though, about 5% of people who follow attachment parenting get a bit smug about it all. #understatement2015. Their way is no longer just ‘what works for me’, it becomes ‘the best way to do things’. Bleurgh. Not the stuff on the Attachment Parenting International website, that all seems very kind, thoughtful and inclusive to me.  No no, it’s all  the blogosphere-forum-comment-section chitter chatter that goes on about doing what comes ‘naturally’ and being in-tune with your baby’s needs. I mean, yeah, obvs, no one is purposefully being out of tube with their baby’s needs, are they? But does it not occur the writers of these comments that the very fact of describing what you’re doing for your baby as ‘natural’ is a pretty sure fire way of making another parent feel like they are doing something unnatural? And wrong.

One of the biggest and most vexing culprits of all this is references to what ‘cave women’ did.

Comments such as “I mean, cave women wouldn’t have (insert modern parenting practice here)” appear on blogs and forums regularly, usually in reference to attachment parenting. They are likely to have been inspired by articles such as the gem “Why Cavemen were Better Parents than we are Today.” (I know, Daily Mail, why do I even do it to myself?).

Somehow, we have come to associate the practices of our distant ancestors with the way of parenting that ‘nature intended’. More than this, that nature’s intentions are the ones we want to follow. You know: high mortality rate, fight-or-flight, survival of the fittest. Now, am I alone in not wanting to apply these principles to the care of my children? Didn’t think so.

So I’ve decided to outline a few reasons why you should not feel obliged to emulate cave people parenting. Commence ranting mode!

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Attention, Attention! Why all play is hard work.

Did you know that you’re supposed to talk to your baby? Well, you are. You should talk and talk and talk. All the time. At every opportunity you should be spouting forth nonsense in order to stimulate those tiny synapses. Or something.

Seriously, dude. Go and TALK TO YOUR BABY. DO IT NOW! Why are you still reading this? I don’t care if she’s asleep, go and whisper your shopping list into her little ear.

Of course, I jest. But it sort of feels like that sometimes doesn’t it? All the leaflets and webpages and well-meaning suggestions on engaging with your small, and perhaps as yet uninterested, person; it can be a bit daunting. There are pages and pages of this stuff. I came across one article whilst researching this post called ’50 simple ways to make your baby smarter’ (Google it if you like, I’m not going to dignify it with a hyperlink). It’s like, WHAT? Seriously? Make your baby smarter? Your BABY? The implication here is that you can also make your baby more stupid, by not following all 50 ‘helpful hints’. Bleurgh to that.

I kept seeing those articles about making sure your child was getting enough stimulation in the early days. It’s. Really. Important. *hyperventilates* One health visitor told me to talk to Bubs constantly. She used that word. I’m sure she didn’t actually mean constantly, but, you know, I was sleep-deprived at the time. Nuance wasn’t a thing.

So, I endeavoured to talk constantly to my baby, giving him a running commentary on nappy changes, shopping lists and antibacterial wipes. Let’s face it, I haven’t got much good chat these days. But still, we do as we’re told don’t we?  One NHS guide tells us

“When you cook, show them what you’re doing and talk to them as you’re working.”

Cooking is always used as an example. “Now, Bartholomew, I’m just sauteeing these onions and then I’ll tomatoes, thyme and a dash of salt.”  It’s a bit like being on Saturday Kitchen, except without make-up artists, an appreciative audience or getting paid.

Sometimes I just want to make some pasta. In silence. Who’s with me?

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“Oh just get some bloody jars!” The weaning stuff you probably do need (and shouldn’t feel guilty about!)

tins and jars

I was at some sort of baby class while ago chatting to your mother he’s seven month old son was waking every 20 minutes in the night. That’s right, 20 minutes. That shit is full-on torture. Obviously we tried to offer empathy and a little bit of advice, but mostly we just looked at her with wide sympathetic eyes. Then she started talking about weaning and how when her son went to bed in the evening she had to start making all of his food for the next day, cooking batches etc. At this point any attempt on my part at subtle sympathy went array as I blurted out “oh just get some bloody jars!” Luckily, I’m not sure the poor harassed woman heard me, but I feel this statement nicely sums up my attitude to weaning.

Of course we all want to feed our children what fresh organic produce that we have cooked with our own hands lovingly. But we are also real human beings who have other things to do, like give said children some attention, clean their floors occasionally and SLEEP. So it’s okay to cheat sometimes. In fact, I don’t think it’s even okay to consider sometimes giving your child  precooked food as cheating. Its just life. So here’s my guide to the weaning paraphernalia that is fine to use:
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“Can I interest you in some more plastic crap, madam?” The weaning paraphernalia you DO NOT NEED.

Buying stuff for a baby is a bit like buying stuff for a wedding. Ooh, that’s a nice white dress, £90, you say? Oh, it’s for your wedding day? Then it’s £900. Oooh, what a lovely small blanket. For a baby? Well, sorry the cost just doubled.

Weaning is the same. They will try to sell you stuff. So much bloody stuff. They will manufacture products in brightly coloured plastics and then  charge a premium for what are essentially smaller versions of things you already have. And you will go, oooh, that looks useful.

But, no! You’re wise to it all now, right? You’ve been in this game for at least four months and your box room/cupboard/garage is already stuffed all that superfluous new-born junk you bought and never used. They won’t get you this time.

Well, just in case, here’s a little tour through all the superfluous weaning junk you don’t need.

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Parenting: It’s actually a bit boring.

 

an average day's parenting - Word 15122014 205030.bmp

As a parent, you will experience more contradictory emotions than ever before. This little person that you love most in the world will, in all likelihood, also drive you to complete and utter distraction (destruction??) on multiple occasions. You may be infinitely happy that your baby was born whilst still remembering actually giving birth to them being the worst. The absolute worst. But that’s parenting for you isn’t it? It’s just a roller-coaster. From the sublime to the ridiculous and back again, all in one afternoon.

Well, no, not quite. That would leave out one important detail.

In Hollywood movies mothers usually either the embodiment of all that is kind, wise and maternal or a hot mess. You know those films, with the friend who has six kids (yeah, that’s pretty much all the character development you’re going to get love, sozzers) who is always arriving late with her hair a complete mess and a child on each nipple? Oh what larks! But most of the time parenting is not an extreme sport. You aren’t either completely nailing or basically dead: there are other options. Day to day, it’s more likely to be just a bit dull. Parenthood is so dramatised at the moment that it’s often these normal experiences that trip us up.

Picture the scene: It is mid afternoon. A child, surrounded by an array of educational and expensive toys, sits playing with an egg carton. A few feet away his mother sits on the sofa. She is staring into the middle distance, her eyes are glazed over and her expression is lifeless. What is happening here? Perhaps she’s got post-natal depression, or has she just received some bad news? Maybe she’s just a neglectful mother.

Erm, no. She’s bored. It’s 3 O’clock in the afternoon and she’s been attempting to entertain her children for the past 8 HOURS. She has prepared two meals (one of which was scraped into the bin and replaced with toast). She has picked umpteen bits of crap from the floor. She has embarked on 3 nap attempts (two failed, one successful). And now, just run out of steam, and ideas. So she’s just sitting there.

If you hadn’t quite decoded my cryptic third-person, hypothetical, throw-em-off-the-scent nonsense, then I shall just clarify that she is me.

Yes, Dear Reader, I too get bored. There, I’ve said it. I love my son, he is great company, but spending all day every day with a one-year-old gets a tad repetitive. I love children’s books, but after the 50th reading I feel I have entered into the subtext of the narrative just about all I can. The suspense is gone. I know it’s not your duck. I know where baby’s belly button is. I know which pet the zoo sent you. I know it all. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll keep reading those classics of modern literature, because it makes Bubs happy and it’s educational and all that good shit. But every now and then I’ll be doing it on autopilot.

I do try to mix it up.  I even venture onto the internet for inspiration, even though Pinterest usually makes me want to vomit with jealousy and the creativity and energy some parents seem to have. ‘Today tabatha and I made a fully functioning space rocket using only the contents of our recycling bins and some small pieces of dowelling. #thrifty #ecomum #recycle #educational’ Hashtag keep your parenting successes to yourself, knobend. Ahem, motherly solidarity and all that. Let’s move on…

Honestly, we get all of my scarves out and do lots of wafting and giggling. Or we build towers out of various toys. The other day I actually made corn flour paste and added different food colourings to make a sort of messy play scenario. Of course, Bubs was only interested in eating it and consequently got high on e numbers. The thing is, Dear Reader, that however long I spend coming up with these activities, whatever effort I put in, they only ever last about 10 minutes. 15 max. You look at the clock, you eyes wide with pleading hope, but it was 10.25am when you started playing and now it’s 10.35am. That’s basically the same time.

Then are the excursions. We’ll head off to play groups. I do have some nice chats with mums some of the time but it’s mostly just following Bubs around, making sure he doesn’t poke any babies in eye and that no toddlers step on his hands. Play groups are an absolute life saver, but they aren’t necessarily a particularly social experience for the parents. And what is it with the ones that don’t give mums a cup of tea? I mean what is the bloody point? 

When you have a child, parents of older children will constantly encourage you to ‘cherish every second, it goes so fast’. I have previously expressed my thoughts on saying that to parents of newborns here, but I do think the general principle is absolutely right. Of course you could spend your child’s first years only half-present, scrolling your Facebook feed looking at other people’s kids instead of giving full attention to your own. Of course that would be a terrible shame. I’m not a frickin’ monster! But the idea that every moment, of every day you can be fully engaged with your child, watching their every move and storing it all up as treasure in your heart? Jog on, mate! I’ve got a life to lead.

In all seriousness there are ways I could probably help myself. Bringing some mindfulness into my parenting would be one (there’s a parenting on that, but we all know how I feel about the books). Buying in a massive amount of craft supplies would be another. And I might do one or both of those things, time shall tell.

In the mean time I’m not going to stress. You know that thing that people used to say when you were a kid? Only boring people get bored. Well, that’s crap. Everyone gets bored sometimes. Just because you’re getting bored in the presence of your child it doesn’t mean you we need to have an existential crisis. I imagine train drivers, or accountants, or nurses, often get a bit bored doing repetitive tasks. But it doesn’t mean they suddenly become paralysed with shame and think ‘What have I done? I never should have become an accountant, what if I’m no good at it? Oh my God, I’ve ruined multiple lives!’ Being a parent is a job, and all jobs getting boring for time to time. I bet Beyonce wakes up some mornings thinking ‘Oh damn, another makeover a photo shoot? How dull‘.

So, yeah, just be bored for a bit. There’s no shame in it. Your child will inevitably doing something funny, adorable, stressful or a combination of all three, and that’ll soon snap you out of it.

bored

What bores you the most about childcare? Do you feel guilty about the duller days? Or maybe you think I should shut up moaning? Whatever your thoughts let me know. Comment below, go to my Facebook page or tweet me @aafew.

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The M Word.

can I call you mummy

For while after I got married people stopped asking how I was, instead they’d ask “how’s married life?” It drove me nuts, mostly because they didn’t really want to know the answer to that question. They wanted me to tilt my head coyly to one side and say “yeah, it’s great thanks” with a suggestive and yet demure sparkle in my eyes. Instead I was tempted to blurt out “oh, I’m so glad you asked, I’ve made a terrible mistake!” and then bolt from the room in floods of fake tears. I never actually did this, but needless to say after about 6 months I did get pretty sick of being defined primarily by my marital status.

Of course, the same thing happens when you become a parent. People ask you how your baby is, or how you’re finding mother/fatherhood. Even with you’re good mates you end up talking 70% baby-chat, because it’s pretty much your whole life. What else are you going to talk about? The Millionaire Matchmaker? (horrible, horrible, fabulous programme, very good for daytime TV breastfeeding).

I remember the first time I went out for drinks with friends from my NCT group, after an hour or so we made a ground rule: no talking about our babies! Wowza, did I learn a lot about those women that night. How they met their partners; how they felt about their jobs; the song they would sing if they went on X-Factor. You know, all the really important stuff.

Because of how we met, we had all know each other a mothers first. We had shared difficult experiences and exchanged advice. In a way we knew each other very well, but in another way not at all. Because when you see someone through the lens of only one of their roles in life, you lose sight of the whole of them. I include stay-at-home parents in this; just because being a parent is your full-time (unpaid) position, doesn’t mean you aren’t just as multidimensional as everyone else (if I do say so myself).

That all seem perfectly reasonable. But festering under the oh-so-accepting-and-right-on surface of our culture is an annoying little verbal habit that is becoming more and more prevalent. Enter, the ‘mummy’ label.

There is something very uncomfortable about an adult who is not related to me referring to me as ‘mummy’. It is a child’s word, or at best a very familiar term, and as such I can’t help the feeling that it carries with the potential to be utterly patronising.

You may have no idea what I’m getting at, so let’s focus in on the three worst offenders on my radar:

Yummy Mummy

Of all the ways ‘mummy’ has become part of the adult vocabulary this is surely the most prolific. It is often used in a playful sense, to describe affluent mothers who dare to leave the house looking half-decent, or own a swanky buggy, or still get their roots done, or all of the above. Recently, however, I’ve heard it deployed too often in a tone of sneering snobbery. We are led to believe that there are packs of roaming mothers, all trotting down the high street together, laughing gaily and occupying all the best coffee houses. Bitches.

I mean, really, how bloody dare they? How dare stylish women have children, and then continue to be stylish? So. Selfish. And while we’re on the subject, it is borderline criminal that these same women, who have probably had their own careers and earned a steady income for 5/10/15 years, are now spending their money on expensive baby products! And what do they do with these items – posh prams, smart change bags, all that crap – they flaunt them around for all to see. The shame of it! Vanity, pure vanity. They probably drive Range Rovers too. *spits on ground*

But what’s worst of all is the life-of-riley that they lead. I mean, if you’re a stay at home mum shouldn’t you be scrubbing the oven or something? But no, they just sit chatting away with the other well-groomed and happy looking women, sipping cappuccino without a care in the blooming world (except that crying baby they’ve been trying to comfort whilst holding a steady conversation for the past 10 minutes). I don’t know, anyone would think that they needed to get out the house once a day and have some kind of adult interaction! Well, everyone knows that is nonsense. If a mum leaves the house then it should only be to go a supermarket, a soft play centre, or a play group. Anything else is selfish in the extreme.

Perhaps you think I’m reading a bit much into the use of ‘yummy mummy’. People don’t really feel that derisive, I hear you say, now stop moaning and go and clean the oven.

Mummy Blogger

It seems to me that the ‘mummy blogger’ is very much the second-class citizen of the blogging world. You might say that’s because there are a crap load of ‘mummy blogs’ out there and half of them are a load of crap (see what I did there?). The thing is, half of everything on the internet is a load of crap. Most of everything on the internet is a load of crap! The consequence of democratising the media voice is that you’re going to get some people who can’t really write, or who think really boring things are really interesting. Case in point: your Facebook feed. But there are some pretty stonkingly written, witty, thoughtful, moving blogs out there that are primarily about motherhood.

I don’t think this diminished status is really to do with overall quality, I think it’s to do with a vision that is encapsulated in the very term ‘mummy blogger’. You know, that bored housewife with nothing better to do than upload poorly taken photos off their children, advertise stuff they’ve been given for free and write about little Marvin’s first steps. #LikeIGiveAShit Because who would believe that mothers might take amazing photos? Or write sharp, useful reviews? Or even write movingly about their experiences? I mean, hello people! Baby brain much??

Yes, I obviously write about parenting. A lot. But I’d prefer just to be called a blogger. I’m writing about what I know and what I am passionate about. And every now and then I write about Nicki Minaj, you know, just to mix things up.

Mumtrepreneur

a) It’s not a word. It shouldn’t be a word.

b) Please can we not define every women who decides to start a business by her parental status. No kids? Entrepreneur. Kids already? Mumtrepreneur. Piss off.

c) If you hadn’t heard this term yet then, yes, it is actually a thing. Bleurgh.

As parents, and I’d say especially as mothers (controversial?), our identity becomes tied up with someone else. We begin to be defined as a mother before all else. And in a way this makes sense. I suppose I am a mother before all else. Except that before I was a mother I was lots of other things, and I’d like to remember those aspects of myself and honour them. If anything having Bubs has focussed me on getting what I want from life. I have a clearer idea of who I want to be professionally and all that good stuff. Mothering is a phenomenal, challenging, joyous thing, but it doesn’t complete me. No one thing, however wonderful and life-altering, can complete me. And that’s okay.

What do you think? Do you like being called a Yummy Mummy? Maybe you’re a mumtreprenuer and proud? Or have you been called ‘mummy’ in a blatantly patronising way? Whatever your thoughts leave them in the comments section below, tweet me @aafew or go to my facebook page and join the debate. 

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“I’m a bad mother”: The constant refrain of a good mother.

It’s been a bit of a rough few days in the (mal)Contented household. Bubs had a bit of a reaction to the MMR jab. Nothing major and a lot better than having measles, mumps or rubella. But still, there’s been some screaming. Quite a bit of screaming. In the night. Like, all night.

I suppose it’s a of a parental rite of passage to finally in give at 5.50am and take your poorly child downstairs to stare a blank television screen until CBeebies starts up (teletubbies is still on, who knew?). Anything to distract from the screamy fever! Thankful it worked; Bubs was transfixed and I could lie semi-conscious on the sofa. There was a lot of TV watched that day, A. LOT. Partly because he was too poorly to want to do much else and partly because I was too tired to be engaging in any way, shape or form. Bleurgh.

That afternoon, as I was carrying the boy upstairs for nap-attempt number 1,385, I thought to myself “hmm, I’ve been a bit of a bad mother today.”

Wait, what?

As I am carrying my fed, watered, talked to, cuddled child, I am simultaneously telling myself I’m a bad mum. Because we watched TV. Have I mentioned yet that I was also ill? I had one of those sore throats that makes your whole neck tender. But how dare I not lay on at least twenty stimulating, creative and educational activities? Someone call social services!!!

I have heard so many mums call themselves ‘bad mothers’. This is usually because they allow their children to eat biscuits, or they occasionally feed them from a jar, or they let the kids sleep in their bed, or never let the kids sleep in their bed, or they leave them to cry, or never leave them to cry, or they don’t own a ‘that’s not my…‘ book or a Sophie the Giraffe, or… Well, you get the picture.

What I think is happening here, people, is that we are getting being a ‘bad mother’ mixed up with being a human-being-who-is-also-a-mother. Easily done. In our weaker moments we think that the only way to be a good mum is to be a perfect one. Seeing as that’s impossible we should probably find a more logical approach.

When Bubs was just a few days old we had a midwife visit. True to new-parent form we bombarded her with a thousand questions. What temperature should the bath be again? Should I wrap him up more? How can I tell if he’s over-heating? Is this okay? Is that okay? She was very good natured and answered us patiently, often just saying what we were doing was fine. When we had finished our onslaught she said “If you’re worried whether you’re doing things right, then we’re not worried!’ Basically, we cared enough to worry, so we’d be fine. (obvs my particular worry grew into new and uncharted levels of bleurgh, but that’s another story)

If someone is actually a bad mother – like that woman in the news today who told her kids she was popping to the shops but actually flew to Australia for 6 weeks – I doubt they advertise it much, or feel guilty enough to categorise themselves in that way. You have to actually care to feel guilty; it seems to be a natural side effect of (good) motherhood.

So, what I am proposing isn’t some complete eradication of guilt. I mean, that would be awesome but I am just not sure it’s realistic. Instead, I reckon we could all stand to take our guilt a bit less seriously. Or even (pushing it?) see it as a good sign; a sign that we are thoughtful and caring mothers who want to do the best for our children at all times. Even if that is massively ambitious and unsustainable.

Dear Reader, have you thought or said that you are a bad mother/father in that past weeks? If so, congratulations, your parenting skills are more than adequate.

 

What do you think? Are you convinced you’re a bad parent? Do you compare yourself to others? Or maybe you don’t give a crap? Comment below, tweet me @aafew or share on my facebook page

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Birth stories: why you won’t be hearing mine.

*trigger warning: despite the title there is a bit of birth talk in this post*

When I was a new mum doing the drinking-coffee-with-one-hand-rocking-pram-with-the-other-attempting-to-maintain-a-half-decent-conversation-thing was part of the deal. Admittedly a much nicer part than the crying at sleep-deprivation and poo-handling bits. It helped me bond with my fellow mums, mostly because we frequently did the too-much-information-thing. You know, talking about the colour of poo; the state of your boobs; your distinct lack of lobedo. Oh yes, small talk becomes a whole new ball game once babies are involved.

Of course, on the top of all our over-sharing lists was the birth itself. With slightly pained expressions, we’d ask each other if the birth was ‘okay’ and wait to see what was divulged. Some would give a short account; 40 hours, exhausting, natural delivery. Others would go into much more detail. This was not because they wanted the attention, nor were they playing bad-birth top trumps, they just needed their stories to be heard, especially by those who could have some genuine empathy.

In those early months I talked birth a lot. The funny thing was I never really wanted to talk about it at all. For me, labour was traumatic. About a thousand people tell you ‘nothing can prepare you for it’ when you’re pregnant, to this you might nod sagely in agreement. But then it happens and you realise: nothing can prepare you for it. Nothing. This isn’t to scare any one or say that antenatal classes are useless; I am very glad that I went to NCT and in some ways it did prepare me. But this is the queen of visceral experiences and, as such, no one can quite put it into words. And I’m not just talking long labours or assisted births (I’ve given my two pence about ‘good births‘ before). I know women who have had 7-hour labours and delivered in the pool and felt, well, frankly, fucked. Feeling like that myself, but not really being able to articulate it, meant it was not easy for me to talk about births, or hear about them. A swell of dread would rise in me at the mere mentioned; sort of like a flashback. It was not pleasant.

Despite my internal panics, I continued with the chat. In fact, often I would initiate the chat. Why, Dear Reader? WHY? Someone would make an offhand comment and I’d follow it up with a question. Then, before you know it, BOOM! This is a proper conversation with details and what not. As if nursing a baby whilst simultaneously trying to drink a luke-warm cappuccino weren’t enough to cope with on 3 hours sleep. Deary me.

The thing is, I wanted to have these conversations with my new friends and I’m sure they brought us closer together. It is an honour to be admitted into that most viscerally private of experiences, even if all that you learn is that they were scared, or shocked, or awed by the whole thing. I’m glad I know what happened to my friends and that many of their experiences resembled mine. I never thought I would shout I shout the words “I had an episiotomy too!” quite so loudly, or enthusiastically over a table in a public place. Once all of the babies were born our groups’ catchphrase became “where are all these ‘natural births’ then???” as 7 out of 8 of us had some complication or other. Sharing it meant we could laugh about it, just a little bit.

But sometimes, when these type of chats were in a group rather than one-to-one, I’d would feel myself slowly disappearing into an internal world. I remember meeting up with a group once, and a mum who I didn’t really know talking about her birth. I had thought we had passed the ‘how was your birth’ stage by then – I desperately wanted to be – even though it was probably only about 3 months after the fact. I found myself not bloody caring that she’d been sent home because she wasn’t dilated enough, and I certainly didn’t want to know home much hypno-birthing helped her. “Yah, so I started doing my meditations…” Meditations?? WTF??? after 2cm I couldn’t bloody see-straight! (FYI I do not think hypnobirthing isn’t good/genuine/etc, but because at that point I was still in the ‘if I’d done that it would have been better’ place. That place is crap.) The more she shared, and others shared with her, the more urgent the sense of dread became in my body became. If we’re talking ‘fight or flight’ reflexes, mine body was definitely telling me to catch the next flight to Kazakhstan.  So I just sat back in my chair and nodded at the appropriate points, trying to do my best interested/sympathetic expression. But I wasn’t really there, I was hiding somewhere in my head. Which was sad.

To be fair, I had worse. Friends without babies who I told I was ‘upset’ by the birth (and the award for understatement of the year 2013 goes to…) and didn’t really want to talk about it, would often respond by asking questions about the birth or, worse, telling me about ‘really bad‘ births they knew of already. I shit you not, Dear Reader, I shit you not.

And you know, I’m beginning to feel all weird as I write this. I’ve got the anxiety tingles. A year on I still find it hard to think about this stuff. And I’m not even thinking about the actual stuff, I’m thinking about talking about the actual stuff. What strange creatures we are.

Now, I shall get to the point. A lot of bloggers writing eloquently and movingly about their births. Some have managed to turn their traumatic experiences into dark comedies for our enjoyment, whilst others have shared their most profound tragedies in order to raise awareness and comfort others. All of these things are wonderful. But I won’t be reading any of them, I’m afraid. Not for a while yet, any way. And (obvs) I won’t be writing one either. Because it is not a day I want to relive.

I used to feel deeply sad and intensely guilty about not being able to remember my son’s birth fondly. But why should I? It was defo, totes, 100% the most physically traumatic experience of my life (and it wasn’t even a ‘really bad‘ one, bleurgh). Yes, afterwards I had my Bubs, but as I mentioned in the post I have just reblogged, my bond with him took time to form. I didn’t feel the Hollywood-sudden-rush-of-love sensation that makes it ‘all worth it’.

Now,, of course, I couldn’t be happier to have my Bubs (okay, I could be a bit happier when he is screaming in my face). As I may have mentioned before; he is the best. person. ever. (Sozzers other mums, but that is an objective fact!) And thought I am happy about the fact he was born (understatement of the year 2014) ; I will never be happy about the act of that birth. ‘The fact, not the act’, is actually a little phrase I coined to help me come to terms with my feelings about the it all. Pretty nifty, dontcha think?

When I realised that I never had to be happy about the labour and delivery, that I didn’t need to amalgamate the memory of a horrid stitches infection (TMI?) into some grand “isn’t motherhood wonderful at all times” narrative, it was a major relief. It is probably not a radical statement to say that women don’t  always have to smile fondly and say “it was all worth it!” when recalling the birth of their children, but it feels radical to me! Because, yes, or course it’s bloody worth it, but sometimes I just want to say it was fucking traumatic without a caveat, without any “but now he’s here and…” stuff. Sometimes, things are just shit. And I think going through labour earns us the right to say so!

So, just in case you were hoping to hear all about my birthing experience (weirdo), you won’t be. But I have created this visual aid, just so you’re in the loop:

Nuff said.

 

If you feel confused or upset by your birth then it might be an idea to talk to a Supervisor of Midwives at your hospital, see more info on my help for you page.

How to feel about retelling your birth? Maybe you adopted and feel left out in these conversations? Have your say by commenting below, go to my facebook page or tweet me @aafew

The Second Trimester: Don’t believe the hype.

Annotations my own.

Extract from an NHS email. Annotations my own.

In the early days of pregnancy, when nobody at work knows, you’re experiencing new levels of grumpy, and the faintest whiff of food makes you dry-retch (or worse); there is one, great shining light at the end of the hormonal tunnel. It is a beacon of hope, a promised land of glowing skin, glossy hair and boundless energy; it is the second trimester. *angelic choral overture*

Everybody tells you that the first 12 weeks are the worst and you’ll start to feel better soon. Your boobs will stop feeling so odd; the not-just-in-the-morning sickness will subside and you won’t be so face-meltingly tired all-of-the-bloody-time. Huzzah, that sounded pretty good to me.

So, around week 13, I began to anticipate this change. I looked forward to not feeling the need to make my husband to list of the ingredients of every meal he cooked for my personal approval (‘no, don’t put any of that in, and can you bake those rather than boil them‘ Bleurgh to me). I thought that I would start making it to 3, maybe even 4pm without feeling physically sick with tiredness. The best was yet to come, the time would soon be here when I could, you know, really start enjoying my pregnancy.

But, Dear Reader, I have some shocking news (that you will in no way have guessed from the tone of the last three paragraphs and the image above):

IT DIDN’T BLOODY HAPPEN!

Week 13 came and went, but I thought I had been a bit optimistic and change was just around the corner. But as weeks 14, 15 and 16 went by and I still felt like utter crap, I began to doubt the ‘second trimester’ line.

It’s no wonder I was sucked in. The promise of respite in that much-celebrated middle stage of your pregnancy is EVERYWHERE. Women tell you about it, magazines tell you about it, the books tell you about it. My NHS emails told me about it. The NHS I tells ya!!

Dear Reader, even the pregnancy Bible itself, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, puts ‘more energy’ at the top of its ‘what you may be feeling’ list. Honestly, what’s a girl to do??

what to expect 2nd trimester

You may point out the massive caveat directly before the words ‘more energy’, but I’m not gonna lie to you, I always go straight to the bullet points. That’s what they’re for, right?

And I’m not the only one with whom these words did not chime. Loads of my friends had the same experience; watching for the magical week 14 and then seeing it pass by without out feeling one bit better. There are legions of us all over the world, crying out in an impassioned chorus:

“Where are our thick, luxurious manes? Where are our gorgeous strong nails? Where is our clear, radiant complexion? Where, oh where, oh where is our bloody energy boost???”

There is not much I can do about it now, of course, except get the word out to others. Unsuspecting newly-pregnant women, clutching their bump-books and eagerly awaiting the illusive glow. Don’t be fooled! Our bodies, like our babies, don’t read the bloody books! You will not be on a predictable timetable. It just don’t work like that.

Thinking about it, pregnancy is a really good time to ease into the idea that human biology is unpredictable and you just have to go with the flow sometimes. Even if the flow is vom-tinged or very, very cry-y.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, Dear Reader! I didn’t have a completely miserable pregnancy, not at all. For me, the fog just took a little longer to lift.

When I was about 18 weeks pregnant I remember talking to another pregnant woman in church one morning. She was about 2 months ahead of me and she asked how I was feeling. I looked at her with wide, bag-laden eyes and said “Rubbish”. Or something like that, it was church so I probably didn’t swear. Probably. She instantly replied “20 weeks, 20 weeks and you’ll start to feel better, honestly.” At the time I didn’t much believe her. I had heard all this crap before. I knew she was being sincere but I just couldn’t get my hopes up again. The whole ‘2nd trimester debacle’ had broken my little pregnant heart.

But Lo! What light from yonder window breaks? ‘Tis the 20 weeks!! ‘Tis the half-way line.

From the Shakespeare quote above you may be able to deduce that I did indeed feel A LOT better in the second half of my pregnancy. And I know I lot of women who experienced carrying a baby as a game of two halves, rather than three thirds. I didn’t get the heavy, achey crap at the end either even though Bubs was 2 weeks late (I know a lot of you do, sozzers). I felt crap for the first half and pretty good for the second. Simples.

So there you have it. My body, like my baby, did not behave in a textbook manner. With hindsight that is no great surprise. But then, that’s sort of the nature of hindsight isn’t it? Hmm, moving on…

If you have a pregnant friend, or a friend who may get pregnant in the future, or you have friend who has a friend who may get pregnant in the future, will you do me a favour and pass on this pearl of wisdom:

Pregnancy is often talked about in trimesters. You may experience it in this way, but you may not. Your experience may be more akin to halves, or quarters, or sevenths for all we know. Because you’re you and your baby is whoever they are, and there is only one you-and-your-baby. So, you know, don’t believe the hype.

Cheers.

 

How was it for you? Were you a textbook pregnancy? Share your experiences by posting a comment below, visiting my facebook page, or tweeting me @aafew.

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And then the fun began...

How to give your one-year-old the perfect birthday present: FOR NO MONEY!

Dear Reader, we have done it. We have seen our child, an actual tiny human being, through the first year of his life. We have managed this with his health, our marriage and my sanity (was touch and go there for a while) intact. Huzzah!

Now, I must confess that I see the first birthday as a celebration for the parents as much (if not more) than their child, who has no awareness of the significance of this particular day, but does like to rip up shiny paper and receives attention with wide-eyed glee. My friends planned parties, visited monkey sanctuaries and Sealife centres; not me. My poor lil Bubs had no cake with a singular candle, no party or elaborate present-giving ceremony. We had a nice time playing and cuddling in the morning, opening cards and pressies (mostly clothes, which I was much more excited about than him). That evening we were off on a train to London and I tried to convince myself that this counted as a ‘special birthday treat’. Don’t think I’ll be getting away with that one again!

And what of his present? Well, I wanted to give him something that he would really enjoy, something with multi-sensory elements and, frankly, something that wouldn’t fill my house with more plastic crap. So, after much debate, we decided that the best present we could give him was a pile of old rubbish.

No, really, that’s what we did.

So, Dear Reader, here is my recipe for the ideal one-year-old birthday present.

Take one old cardboard box and mix with a willing helpful husband.

Take one old cardboard box and mix with a willing helpful husband.

Apply all of that worse-for-wear wrapping paper that's been stuffed in a bag under a desk for a a year or so.

Apply all of that worse-for-wear wrapping paper that’s been stuffed in a bag under a desk for a a year or so.

Take a month's worth of land-fill worthy packaging that you have squirrelled away.

Separately, take a month’s worth of land-fill worthy packaging that you have diligently squirrelled away. Including…

Mr and Mrs Egg box.

Mr and Mrs Egg box.

A box of tissues (unused).

A box of tissues (unused).

That old phone that's been in the bottom draw for longer than you can remember.

That old phone that’s been in the bottom draw for longer than you can remember.

Random plastic trays.

Random plastic trays.

And an optional extra: If you, like us, save all of the scoops from your formula tubs for no apparent reason, now's the time to use them...

If you, like us, save all of the scoops from your formula tubs for no apparent reason, now’s the time to use them…

Sew the ends together and fashion your Bubs a rattle of epic proportions!

Sew the ends together and fashion your Bubs a rattle of epic proportions!

Now, place the gathered ingredients into the afore mentioned box, et voila! Your birthday present is assembled!

Now, assemble the ingredients into the afore mentioned box, et voila! Your birthday present is assembled!

You say cheap and flimsy; I say creative and ecological!!

Any way, Bubs liked it…

DSC_1013 DSC_1016 DSC_1085 DSC_1088

#thrifty #birthday #winning!

What are your thrifty birthday tips? Share in the comments below, or tweet me @aafew