How to lose your baby weight.

how to lose your baby weight‘Baby weight’: should it be an actual thing? Should it be something we talk about and focus on? Is ‘baby weight’ a helpful idea/turn of phrase in any way?

When you become a mother it is very likely that you’ll feel your body is not your own for while. I mean the whole being-in-labour thing is enough to make most of us feel a bit odd, what with the world and his wife regarding your nether-regions with clinical disinterest for 24 hours. Then there’s the fact that you have a tiny human attached to you boob/general person all the time. (Like, all the f*cking time). Anyhoo, the whole newborn scenario is not exactly going to make you feel like you’re bringing sexy back or anything, and that’s totes normal, so, like, don’t worry about it.

Added to all this body-consciousness is the concept that you have some ‘baby weight’ that you must lose sometime soon. Because that is what people do, right? By people, I mean Victoria Beckham and Jessica Alba and Kate ‘The Duchess of Cambridge’ Middleton. You know, the kind of people who can afford a nanny for each child, personal trainer and chef. And the kind of people who get followed around by cameras ever darn day of their lives… I mean, I can’t think how/why they do it…

At first this whole issue may not bother you, but give it time. I have written previously about the few months of grace after giving birth where I could look in the mirror and think “yeah, my body looks different and that’s okay”, but then the inevitable happened and I looked in s three way mirror and tried to buy jeans. Foolish woman. Suddenly it dawned on me that I really did need to shape up! And by ‘shape up’ I mean lose weight and look thinner, obvs. I need to shed my baby weight.

But did I? Do you? 

Now, I’m not saying that women don’t put on weight when they’re pregnant. I’m obviously not saying that, because that would be straight-up wrong and silly. I’m not saying that women don’t put on more weight than the 6-10lbs their baby weighs either (again, wrong and silly). What I’m saying is that the whole idea of ‘baby weight’ has a certain, well, weight to it. It has an expectancy that at some point you really need to get your act together and return to your ‘normal’ body type. Like your body has just gone wrong for a while and it needs a gym membership and 10-day juice cleanse to get it back on track.

But what if – and bear with me because this is a pretty out-there suggestion – what if growing a person in your womb, going through major hormonal changes and having the skin around your torso stretch, like, a lot, means that your ‘normal’ body type has changed? If that’s the case then isn’t the idea it’s all just ‘baby weight’ that needs to get gone a bit, well, unrealistic. What with having to look after an actual tiny helpless human and everything, I just don’t think this expectation is one we should be putting on ourselves.

And while we’re on the subject, what body shape are we trying to get ‘back’ to anyway? The way we looked before we had kids? You know, that pre-baby physique that you’d always been so happy with and never wanted to changed in any way? Hmm… Ain’t hindsight a bitch.

Actually, I think most of us want to have the body we wanted to have before we were pregnant, not the one we had. There’s still part of me that wants to get ‘back’ to my ‘ideal’ weight. This weight was not the weight I was just before Bubs was conceived, on no, it’s the weight I was when I was 24 and vegan and went running regularly and was yet to become quite so fond of Sauvignon Blanc. Incidentally this was also the weight I was when lots of people volunteered their unbidden opinion that I was too skinny. Sigh.

The fact that half of the women we see modelling clothes we’re supposed to wear are teenagers doesn’t help here. I mean, what if we’re not all supposed to have the figure of an adolescent girl whose boobs have just ‘come in’ for the rest of our lives?’

I’m just asking.

Having a baby, whether you give birth to it or not, is going to change your lifestyle. You will be exhausted a lot of the time and less able to just ‘pop to the gym’ (apparently that is a thing that people do) whenever. You will most likely eat more quick and easy food, which usually means more frozen pizza.

And so what? I mean, maybe that’s just okay. It’s obviously not okay to eat chocolate for breakfast every day and live a sedentary lifestyle, but any parent of a toddler will know that the option of a sedentary lifestyle is but an illusive dream.

(Just as an aside, I think all parents of toddlers should, by rights, have really toned arms. Who’s with me?)

Bodies change. That is an actual scientific fact. So what if we just let them? I don’t mean what if we all become morbidly obese, obvs, (wrong and silly), but what if we don’t try to ‘get our figures back’? What if we try to love the skin we’re in, generally eat some vegetables, make sure we move about a bit, and also drink some gin and eat some chocolate?

Sure Victoria Beckham is the skinniest four-child-bearing mini you’ll ever see, but as the paparazzi aren’t particularly bothered with my everyday movements, maybe it just doesn’t matter that much if my arms wobble a bit. Maybe that’s even.. Nice.

Dear Reader, I am so sick of this crap. I am so tired of being surrounded by women on expensive, extreme diets, or talking about how ‘bad’ we were on holiday (i.e. we ate lots and enjoyed it). I am SO sick of all this body image stuff getting into my head and making me crazy and unhappy and stopping me just enjoying my ridiculously blessed existence!

So, I am turning over a new leaf, I am going to try to live a healthy lifestyle because I don’t want to die of a con colony heart failure when I’m 55, and if doing that means I lose a stone then I will be ecstatic (not gonna lie) but if I don’t, I am really going to try to feel good about myself anyway. Because why shouldn’t I? And why shouldn’t you? 

If you need further inspiration, check Amy Schumer’s acceptance speech at the Glamour women of the Year Awards. Nothing to do with baby weight, but the line 47 seconds in is priceless!

  

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All My Single Mummies!

(Dear Beyonce please don't sue me for using your image: I'm trying to be nice.)

(Dear Beyonce please don’t sue me for using your image, thank you please.)

It’s Mothers Day so by rights I should be reclining on a chaise longue, having a foot massage whilst eating peeled grapes. But I’ve got something to say! (no surprises there then)

Firstly I’d like to big- up all mums. Birth mothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, god mothers, people-who-aren’t-called-mothers-but-maternally-care-for-many-others. You all rock.

But as I was lounging in bed this morning, being brought brekkie by my lovely Hubs (and Bubs who has no idea what day it is and just wants to eat my croissant) I realised that there were probably some Mothers Days when my mum didn’t get any of that. She was a single parent and when I was four-years-old I doubt I popped down the shops for a bouquet of a Sunday morning. Maybe other people did stuff for her. I imagine my Dad would have marked it in some way now and then (he’s lovely and they are together now so don’t go making assumptions #It’sComplicated). And she had some kickass friends who were totally my extended family growing up. (seriously guys, when my mum had tonsillitis and I was a baby they made a 24-hour rota and took care of use both, hurrah for friends!).

Still, we were lucky in ways that many single-parent families aren’t, so there must be a lot of women waking up this morning to no card, no flowers, no cup of tea. Just a hungry child and a pile of washing.

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Toddlers watching TV: It’s, like, totally fine, isn’t it??

Aaah, CBeebies. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways! You have created a continual stream of benign, advert-free and (generally) educational children’s television. You lovely bloody geniuses!  I mean, where else can we find shows that explore emotional intelligence at a 3-year-old level, or encourage kids to use their imaginations to enjoy classical music, or even covertly teach counting through the cunning use of an eccentric beige character who has a love of stones?

That’s right, people, I love CBeebies. I’m not afraid to admit. And I let Bubs watch TV. Quite a lot.

*hyperventilates with the overwhelming fear of self-righteous parental judgement*

Joking aside, for some reason TV has recently been added to my “oh my God, am I ruining my child?” list of irrational fears. As I type this I can genuinely feel my anxiety heightening. We all have these moments. Panic sets in as a giant, bright red neon sign switches on in your mind. “DANGER: BAD MOTHER ALERT!” it warns, flashing violently.

But it’s weird I should feel that – even in a self-aware sort of a way – because almost everyone I know lets their kids watch TV. It’s a totally accepted, alright thing, isn’t it? Okay, some people choose not to let their kids watch any screens, which seems reasonable, but it doesn’t mean that they are kinder, more creative, better parents, does it?

IT DOESN’T, DOES IT???

No, it doesn’t. Breathe.

There is always something or other in the news linking behaviour to health issues. Not that it takes a genius to work out that if a child plays X-Box all weekend and doesn’t go outside at all then they are more likely to become obese (I’ll take that PhD now, please). But still there always seems to be some study saying kids who do/don’t do this are more likely to become underachievers/unhealthy adults/murderous rapscallions.

Like research on other parenting issues that can get a bit judgey (e.g. formula-feeding and the use of dummies) this stuff often gets simplified by the media. I mean “researchers have found possible negative outcomes to TV watching but these may also be due to socioeconomic factors” isn’t exactly clickbait is it?? No, we want a headline that goes something like “Children Who Watch TV Are Basically F*cked, Scientists Say.” That’s the one that will go viral.

The problem with this kind of sensationalist rubbish is that it draws a false divide. On the one hand there are children who are read to and sung to, who love books and spend a lot of times outdoors, who have oodles of face-to-face interaction with their parents; on the other there are kids who watch TV. Of course this also implies two kinds of parents; those who can be bothered and those who can’t. Bleurgh.

But what if your kids can be both kinds of kid? Or parents can be both kinds of parents? What if those of us who spend most of our time being very much bothered with entertaining and caring for our children sometimes just want to sit down for 20 minutes? What if that was okay?

My Bubs loves books. LOVES them. We were on a plane when he was about 10 months old and he was kicking off majorly, and what was the thing that finally calmed him down? Being read a book. (we did feel a flutter of parental triumph at that particular moment). Bubs likes drawing and playing outside and watching bubbles and singing and dancing and all that good stuff. But you know what? He also enjoys a spot of TV. He can actually sing the Pingu theme tune and points at the TV in delighted surprise every time the Ninky-Nonk/Pinky-Ponk bursts through the hedge in the Night Garden. It’s really very cute.

Bubs is on an advanced reading programme.

Bubs is on an advanced reading programme.

However, I recently discovered that TV isn’t ‘recommended’ for kids under two-years-old and have been a slightly torturous inward debate ever since. Before they are TWO? Oops. That ship has well and truly sailed. I reckon Bubs was first introduced to CBeebies at around the 3 month mark (oh the shame!).

So I had to have a look at why these recommendations were put in place: “A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.” We are told by the American Academy of Peadiatrics. Well, duh! Like, that is totes obvs!

It’s so black and white, I mean why does that statement mean no screen time whatsoever? NO TV OR ALL IS LOST! It’s as if a few episodes of Tinga Tinga Tales is somehow a gateway-drug to a hardcore TV addiction in which children become unable to imagine and create. I’m not saying this can’t happen. In fact, I’m sure it does in homes where the TV is a third (first?) parent and no one talks about their day or reads or sings song. Sad face.

But that’s not what I’m talking about here. No one is advocating sitting your 4-year-old to binge watch an entire season of Breaking Bad. That would be properly awful.

Sometimes I let Bubs watch TV in really sensible way. I use iPlayer to select the programme and I limit him to one episode, just long enough for me to get something done (often a nappy change: TV is a Godsend for parents of pooey, wriggly toddlers).

But other times I just put it on because I can’t think what else to do. It’s only 10am and I’ve already read that book 5 times and sung my full repertoire of nursery rhymes. The day stretches out before me like a particularly shouty question mark and I just need 10 minutes to stare into space or check my email or something.

Then there are those times when, franky, I just want to watch some telly. I like telly. Other than the smorgasbord of delights offered on CBeebies the only TV show my son is aware of is Pointless, which I occasionally put on for us to watch ‘together’. What? It’s super educational man! I mean, who knew there was an element called Einsteinium? Huh?

I’m not pretending this is the ideal in parenting habits. But I’m not the ideal parent. I’m a human. Shock horror.

Based on the anecdotal evidence I have, I am pretty darn sure this regular TV watching will cause Bubs no long term harm. As a child I watched a fair bit of CBBC, and Neighbours, and then switched over to BBC2 for The Simpsons (those were the days!). Still, I have managed to grow up into a relatively emotionally intelligent person who holds a Masters Degree in Cultural History with Distinction. #justsaying. I also have a friend who, as the 3rd child, was pretty much plonked in front of the TV with a colouring book for much of her childhood. She is now, as well as just being lovely, a qualified doctor who’s taking a year out to do an art foundation course. Well-rounded much?

Don’t get me wrong, I think parents who don’t let their kids watch TV are awesome; I just wish my admiration wasn’t accompanied by a stomach-curdling dose of inferiority complex. It’s not their fault I feel this way, of course it’s not. It’s the fault of a society that has come to believe we must consult ‘experts’ at every turn. Every parenting decision must be scrutinised under the microscope of Research, conclusions reached and expounded. A one-size-fits all code of parenting.

What if we, I don’t know, made decisions based on common sense that were guided by our love for our children, as well as a healthy dose of realistic expectations of ourselves? I mean, isn’t that what most of us are doing?

Yeah, I thought so.

So, in conclusion. TV, it’s like, totally fine. Isn’t it?

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When Toddlers Attack! #WickedWednesdays

We all know that it’s natural for toddlers to have bumps and scrapes. So far this week Bubs has whacked his head against the side of the cot whilst wriggling violently away from having his face wiped, he’s also smacked his head on a door frame and probably done some other stuff that I missed completely. But that’s all a natural part of development, ‘finding your feet’ and what not. I was prepared for that. I was less prepared for this…

I have been mauled by a one-year-old.

I have been mauled by a one-year-old.

 

Or this…

 

Actual, genuine bite marks.

Actual, genuine bite marks.

Neither of these were done in a temper. I just hadn’t cut his nails (let this be warning to you all) and for some reason he quite calmly bit me last night when I was putting on his pyjamas. It bloody hurt, as you may have deduced.

Toddlers: handle with care!

 

 

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I know I’m adult. But am I a GROWN-UP?!?

Sometimes when I’m watching Bubs waddle around, playing and what not, it hits me: I have a child. An actual child. Ergo, I am an actual parent.

Can that be right? Am I really grown-up enough to be a parent? Why haven’t the authorities been alerted?!

When I was 10 or 15 or whenever, I would imagine the things adult-me would do, like, waaaaaaaaaaay in the future. You know, getting married, having kids, living in a family home. Well, guess what? Those things have happened. That is my life now. I am basically living in the future. When did this occur and where’s my bloody hover car???

Okay, I’m 30-years-old, I can accept that this means I’m firmly in the ‘adult’ category. And I’m really okay with that. What’s the alternative? You couldn’t pay enough money to be a teenager again and the twenty-something ship has sailed. But when Hubs and I talk, we often still refer to our parents as ‘the grown-ups’. Because they the real adults, aren’t they? Unlike me, 79% of the sentences that leave their mouths don’t have the word ‘like’ needlessly injected into them. I mean I know all of the words to Fix Up, Look Sharp by Dizzee Rascal, for crusts sake!*

ALERT THE AUTHORITIES

(This photo of me was taken two Saturdays ago. No joke of a lie. I seem to be making gangster-style hand gestures. Heaven help us.)

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Cave women: A perfect model of motherhood?

og og

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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A little note on choking…

Hmm, what a cheery headline this post has! Well, despite my wry and cantankerous ways I didn’t feel right doing so many posts on weaning without putting in a little something on choking. If you haven’t seen this fab PSA from St John’s Ambulance yet then take a look:

Weaning is part stressful, part fun and (hopefully the smallest) part terrifying. Whether it is mashed banana or a raw carrot, when food gets to the back of your baby’s mouth they will gag. While this a natural reflex they need to develop, it looks a hell of a lot like they’re choking, so that’s fun! I recommend you learn the difference between gagging and choking, for your own sanity. (Briefly, choking is usually silent, gagging is not).

If you feel you want to be more equipped, Millie’s Trust is a fab charity that runs basic first aid courses. The story of its founders is heart-breaking and inspiring in equal measure. And of course good old St John’s won’t steer you wrong!

And last but not least, did you know that, by law, nurseries only have to have one first aider per building? No matter how big that building is or how many children there are in it???????? I know riiiight? W the actual F? If you fancy writing to your MP about this you can do so here. Go on, bash out a strongly worded email. You know you wanna!

Well, that’s my good deed for this weekend. Back to being an eyebrow-raising cynic.

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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Supply and Demand: When the ‘let down’ is a let down.

Wowza, turns out A LOT of you have had similarly frustrating experiences with breast-feeding. Thanks so much for the response. So, time to get specific and talk about the issue that particularly effected me: supply.

When Bubs was a newborn he screamed. A lot. Yes, I know they all do that, but, phew, not quite like this. Honestly, nurses on a post-natal mental health ward were wide-eyed at his fits. When my Health Visitor heard him bawling directly after a feed she just turned to me and said. “Yes, that’s a hungry baby.” Up to that point I hadn’t really grasped the idea that there just might not be enough juice available to fill him up. The thing is that there was definitely some milk there. I didn’t know that it was supposed to be squirting out by now. I didn’t know that he cried more than most. He’s a baby. I just thought I wasn’t very good at coping with it all.

Before I started Bubs on formula I was pretty much breast-feeding all of the time. All. The. Time. I know this because of the hazy sleep-deprived memories of constant suckling, but also because in those early weeks I can find no photo of me with him where I’m not breastfeeding. Not one.

Here's a typical example.

Here’s a typical example.

And another. (note the mystery bruise)

Oh yeah, and this one.

Oh yeah, and this one.

Also this, in which my boy is giving the finger to all of the unhelpful advice.

Also this, in which my boy is giving the finger to all of the unhelpful advice.

Sometimes a girl has to multitask

Sometimes a girl has to multitask.

See, every bloody photo. I wasn't joking!

See, every bloody photo. I wasn’t joking!

Okay, I’ll admit, there are a few pics of us asleep too. But you see my point. I remember someone remarking sympathetically that I was doing a lot of breast-feeding. I also remember hurriedly snapping something back along the lines of “well it should be on demand do I just so it as much as he wants!” I got a bit defensive, mainly because I had no idea what I was doing and I didn’t want anyone to realise that. A mother should be able to feed her baby, right?

I know that many women find that breast-feeding eventually becomes a close, warm, cuddly time of connection with their baby. I know that it’s hard for everyone and there is always a degree of ‘pushing through’. This was not my experience. No amount of resolve on my part could have made a difference. My baby rarely settled satisfied in my arms after a feed. He often just kept sucking until he tired himself out and fell asleep. Or resumed his regularly scheduled screamathon. Even now I feel a pang of guilt when I think that he was hungry all that time (you know, whilst I’m having a break from feeling guilty about formula feeding), though there was no reason I should have known that. He wouldn’t sleep alone because he wanted to be close to the source. He cried so much because he was trying to tell us something. Like “I’M F**KING STARVING OVER HERE WOMAN!”

Seriously, the very day I started to give Bubs formula a near-magical transformation occurred.  He cried about a fifth of the amount he usually did. I was so indoctrinated into the woes of bottle-feeding I actually worried I was drugging him or something. Drugging him. With food? Sigh.

Recently my sister-in-law has had a lovely little girl. Thankfully breastfeeding has generally gone well for them but, of course, the baby has the odd day when all she wants is to be nursed, you know those golden ‘upping mum’s production’ days? Fun. My wonderful sister-in-law says these are the days when she feels the most overwhelmed and on the edge. She realised that this must have been how my boy was behaving for the first month of his life. Putting it like that clarifies for me how hard I did try, and that helps to quieten the guilt a little. What’s more, I know I’m only one of thousands (millions?) of women who has had this experience.

So why no supply? I think for me it was a combination feeling traumatised by his birth (not awful in the scheme of things but, you know, forceps and operating theatres were involved, bleurgh) and the pain from an infection I got in my stitches. No one realised I had it for a while and by the time we did I was having to breathe through the pain (thank you Voltarol!), lie only on one side and go to the loo with a walking stick. Bleurgh again.

Let’s just take a minute here – I could only lie on one side and was in pain with every movement. But I still breast-fed. On both boobs. Oh the ridiculous contortions I made that young lad go through to get a few insufficient glugs of milk!! And I’m not saying this to show off – no no! This wasn’t a triumph of motherly love, it was a consequence of the fact that I thought giving your baby formula was basically like feeing them McDonalds! If I had a time machine I’d go back and tell myself to get some bloody Aptimil and go to sleep.

The fact is that the pain, trauma and antibiotics were giving my body and mind a lot to cope with when it should have been concentrating on getting that milk out. At a time when the best thing you can do is be relaxed (ha ha) my body was tensed against pain. So the ‘let down’ didn’t really happen how it should! It all seems pretty much like common sense now but in the haze of confused, tired, early-parenting the ‘breast is best’ mantra was heavily etched onto my psyche.

With all the “everyone can breast feed” chatter it’s hard not to feel that if it doesn’t work for you it’s because you didn’t ‘stick with it’ or that you’ve done something wrong. But this stuff happens a lot and it’s not anything you’ve done or haven’t done. One particular midwife kept telling me to eat more. “We’ve got to look after mum.” She’d repeat. The thing is that she never actually asked me how much I was eating. The answer was loads. Nobody has to tell me to eat 2,500+ calories a day twice; I am fine with that! Oh, butter and whole milk you say? Ok, well, if I must (nom nom). Oh and people kept lecturing me about how to breastfeed properly, how to get a good latch etc. This was usually before they’d actually observed me feeding, at which point they’d say something like “oh yes, that’s very good”. One midwife who observed my side-lying contorted breast-feeding described my technique as ‘expert’. So, I knew that the mechanics were not the issue; it was the fuel supply that was out. Grr, arg.

So do bare it in mind if you’re expecting or know someone who is. Sometimes you just ain’t got the juice. And that’s fine. No harm will come to your baby. (true story, a Health Visitor told me so!)

What’s your story? Share in the comments below, give a tweet @aafew or…

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