Mummy’s First Review: Revel Body SOL (I’m bringing sexy back)

*Fair warning: though there are no details at all divulged in this review, it is for a product of an adult nature, so if you know me and wish to regard me as an asexual being, look away now*

Dear Reader, I have ummed and erred over whether or not to include reviews in this blog. Since 90% of my posts are rants about the avalanche of advice that descends upon parents ‘these days’, it feels a bit hypocritical to then start telling you what and what not to buy for your kids. But, on the other hand, I quite like free stuff, and I also like being critical. Hmm. Dilemma.
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Mummy Mantra #4: All babies sleep eventually, all babies sleep eventually, all babies sleep eventually…

Honestly, they do.

Honestly, they do.

It’s 3am. Your baby didn’t settle until 11pm. Now they are just crying. And crying. And crying. You are soooo tired but if you so much as sit down the decibel level increases tenfold. How do they even know? I’m still jiggling around but somehow the 2 foot descent provokes screams of despair. Bleurgh.

We’ve all been there. For most of us it’s in the first months, or when our children are teething or ill. For those of you who endure this nightly for more than 6/12/18 months, we salute you. Hang in there!

I don’t know about you but when my baby has had a few atrocious nights I start to feel quite mad. The depleted brain function caused by sleep deprivation is coupled with a nagging mental search for the cause of this nocturnal malfunction. Is something they ate? What have I done or not done to cause this??? Double bleurgh.

When your mind is thus befuddled it may help to repeat this simple phrase: all babies sleep eventually… This little mantra works on two levels.

1) No human can fight sleep forever (though it sometimes feels like it) and so you can rest (or not) assured that at some point the crying will give way to that adorable sleepy face. You know the one, it makes you remember how cute and lovely they are. It may not last as long as you want, but sleep will happen.

2) I don’t know any 18 year olds who still wake 4 times a night demanding milk/cuddles so when you say ‘all babies sleep eventually’, you can be telling yourself that the night waking won’t last forever (I know for some it lasts far too long though).

Every baby insists on having these battles with sleep even though, as I often tell Bubs, this is only time in their lives when they can literally go to sleep whenever and wherever they want (it’s like, duh, take advantage!). To call this a bit frustrating is a bit like calling Ryan Gosling mildly attractive; it just doesn’t cut it. But we get through.

So as you sit (if you’re lucky) rocking back and forth in the corner of the nursery, you can repeat this mantra for some reassurance. Or even just for something else to listen to! Yes, you will look ever so slightly insane, but hey, it’s 3 am, who’s watching?

FYI: This post is dedicated to my own mother. I woke every two hours, every night until I was 9 months old. And she was a single parent. So. Much. Bleurgh. Sorry mumsie!

Got your own mummy (or daddy) mantra? Please share by commenting below or tweet me @aafew

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Mummy Mantras #3: We do what works!

we do what works

 

Dear Reader, this #mummymantra is perhaps the closest to my heart. This is probably because it works in two ways. First, it stops us judging/torturing ourselves. We can’t always do what the books, or the guidelines, or our in-laws say is ‘best’. You will be told that ‘every baby is different’ and that ‘you know your baby best’ until the cows come home, but you will also be told in a thousand subtle ways that what you’re doing is wrong. Not directly, not necessarily by an actual person, but by the acres of advice that piles down upon new parents these days. So it’s helpful to remember that most of us, in the end, just do what works for our family. For some the idea of controlled crying provokes a shudder of dread; for others it is a lifeline and the key to getting your evenings back. The former parents may end up feeling like they are ‘giving in’, whilst the latter could worry that they are being neglectful. Neither is true, of course. We just do what works.

But, unfortunately, it’s not just our inner-guilt factory that churns all these feelings up. There are a few real Judgey McJudgepants out there. Whether it’s an evangelical breast-feeder or a Gina Ford devotee, there are some parents (I’d say less than 1%) who really do think their way is best. But the problem isn’t these people, really, because they are a tiny minority and, frankly, they are a bunch of self-righteous knobs. So there. The real problem is that we often worry that we’re secretly being judged by way more people than just the narcissistic 1%. My big thing is using a dummy. I’ll do a whole post on it another time, but basically I use a dummy to get Bubs to sleep, and sometimes just to pacify him if we’re in church or the supermarket and nothing else is working. I often get worried that I am being judged for this. And that’s mostly because BC (before children) I was totally judgemental about dummies! But now I just do what works! And the thing is, no one actually cares whether or not I use a dummy. In fact, loads of mums I talk to are jealous that my baby will actually take a dummy! And others just know I’m doing what works. So, good. Jog on.

‘We do what works’, then, can become a great thing to say during parent gatherings. It is a blanket statement of non-judgement. It says “yes, I moved my baby to their own room at 10 weeks, but I think it’s great that you still co-sleep, it seems to be working well”. Or whatever; you get the picture. I’ve done loads of things you’re ‘not supposed to do’ and I know my friends don’t judge me for it. Because if you manage to get through the first year of your baby’s life and never diverge from the guidelines then, bloody hell, you deserve a medal, or admission to some kind of band of elite parenting ninjas. And if you don’t manage that then you’re just normal, and you can be my friend.

What’s your #mummymantra? tweet me @aafew, or leave a comment below, and the best mantras will be retweeted and featured on the blog later in the week.

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Mummy Mantras #1: “I’ve got a life to lead.”

Please ignore the random and mildly unnerving tapering arm in this picture.

Please ignore the random and mildly unnerving tapering arm in this picture.

Hello there, Dear Reader, here beginneth a little series on what-I-call ‘mummy mantras’. These – you and your clever little brain may have guessed – are a collection of phrases I like to repeat to keep me vaguely sane. Yes, they are naughtily named in gender-specific way but ‘parent mantras’ doesn’t have the same alliterative punch and, frankly,  sounds far too earnest for my liking.

Now, mummy mantras are not to be confused with the other kind of parental catchphrases that crowd our verbal world i.e. those directed at our children. ‘Get down’, ‘can I have it please?’ ‘where’s baby gone? There he/she is’ ‘one more mouthful’ etc do not count. I’m talking about mantras for mums (or dads) by mums (or dads).

I’ve got a life to lead.

When my son got to about 5 months old I began to use this phrase a lot. I used it in reference to things I had started to do that had the potential to fill me with guilt. And, franklly, to remind myself that I was, in fact, a separate entity, with a separate identity to my Bubs (shocking, I know).  You see, at some point in your child’s life you have to make a choice: cater to their every need instantly, or have a life of your own on occasion. I chose the latter, as most of us do. It is a totally legitimate choice, but one that requires you to behave ever so slightly selfishly now and again. And we parents aren’t always very good at that. Well, actually, we are but we just have the potential to feel intense guilt for doing perfectly reasonable things like watching TV and peeing alone.

I shall now demonstrate the use of this mummy mantra, which I have come to find essential.

I decide, despite my previous snobbery towards the method, to give my son a dummy to help him sleep (and keep him from screaming the car/church/museum down). This invokes in me some paranoia. Am I being judged by other parents whose children magically go to sleep without a dummy? Am I retarding my son’s speech? Am I setting him up for an adolescence of orthodontist appointments and train-track braces??

No, he’ll be fine and I’ve got a life to lead.

I decide to use the ‘controlled-crying’ technique after a few nights of hour-long pre-sleep screaming-in-my-face sessions. Am I neglecting my him?

No, I’ve got a life to lead.

I move him into his own room at 10 weeks because he was waking so much and was SO LOUD even when he was asleep.

Because I know what the bloody guidelines say but I’ve got a life to lead. 

I often plonk him down in front of CBeebies for a bit whilst I check email/tidy up/play Candy Crush.

Because I’ve got a (albeit quite unexciting) life to lead.

Sometimes I feed him food out of jars, or pouches, or packets. If I’m out later than planned and haven’t brought his food I will even occasionally give him food with added salt. Dun Dun Der!

But, you know, I’ve got a life to lead.

 

So, I think you get the picture. It’s funny because even as I type this I feel a wave of guilt wash over me. I can’t believe I’m admitting to the whole wide web that I’m a human being who serves their own needs at times. How dare I think about myself? How dare I have days where I just can’t be bothered? How dare I have a life to lead???

Well I do dare, Dear Reader, and so should you.

 

 

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What’s your #mummymantra? tweet me @aafew and the best mantras will be retweeted and featured on the blog later in the week.

Mother’s Hierarchy of Needs: And the winner is…

A couple of weeks ago I took a poll on your needs. What do you prioritise above all else? If you want see what all of the options were  just click hereBut, of course, there can only be one winner. It was a close run race but, by just a single vote, your choice for the most accurate ‘mother’s hierarchy of needs’ is

 

*achingly long drum roll*

 

THE SLEEP ONE!

 

The Sleep One

The Sleep One

 

Yes, though it wasn’t my first choice (probably because it took me about 30 second to design and the others were labours of love, but whatevs, I, like, don’t even care) I think we can all agree that this is pretty darn accurate. Especially in the initial months. Actually, what am I talking about. It’s always accurate. We just came back from a two week holiday on which my delightful Bubs decided to go from sleep through to waking an unpredictable amount of times (always at least two). I’ve never returned from a holiday more tired than when I left. One is not amused.

So, there you have it. Sleep. Everything else. It’s as simple as that.

 

 

Thanks goes to @StephieDoug (sisterhoodandallthat.com) for her Twitter response:

What are your needs?? Time to vote!

In my last post I created a ‘hierarchy of needs’ for mums. Basically just to show that, whatever you’re going through, we all find it tough in one way or another. I also posted the #hierarchyofneeds on Twitter (come in people, it’s 2014, you gotta have a hashtag!)  Loads of people responded offering suggestions of what they would add. Two main themes, not totally unrelated if I may say, arose. The first, of course, was Gin! How could I have been so remiss as to miss out alcohol? Wine also came up a few times, naturally. The second was how much headspace was totally central to getting through this parenting lark. I’d put it at the top of the pyramid, but maybe it was really at the heart of it all. Cuddles, coffee, showers and puke-free clothes also came up.

So I got to thinking, downloaded some free apps (you gotta love free apps) and made a few more #hierarchyofneeds models. I have displayed them for you below. So, what do you think? Which do you feel best conveys your own needs? Have your say in the, frankly quite funky, poll below. I will announce the winner a week from now. Make your voice heard!

(Obvs this is a completely meaningless bloggy vote but, you know, humour me).

 

The Original One

The Original One

 

 

The Sleep One

The Sleep One

 

 

The Venn Diagram One

The Venn Diagram One

 

 

The Thorough One

The Thorough/Complicated One

 

 

 

 

‘Good’ Births, Weight Loss and Sleeping Through: why no mum wants to be told she’s ‘lucky’.

A conversation I had recently:

Me: Oh yeah, he’s just starting to get mobile now, so that’s a bit scary!

Nameless Mum of Two: How old is he now?

Me: Just about 8 months.

NMOT: Wow, 8 months and just starting to crawl. You’re lucky, mine both crawled at 6 months. You don’t want them crawling. *eye roll*

Me: (internally) OK, I’ll be quiet now then.

Dear reader, I’d like to tell you a little bit about why telling a mum she’s ‘lucky’ is one of those things that sounds like a compliment but makes you want to scream in someone’s face…

I, like many (most?) women I know found giving birth pretty traumatic. And why wouldn’t I? There was an actual person coming out of my actual body. Granted, I was aware that this was going to happen for over nine months previous to the event and you might think that the human brain, with all it’s vast capacities, would be capable of imagining something close to the experience. But you’d be wrong. It can’t. In fact, even the stuff I could imagine changed. I was induced so it all started in hospital; I had to have an assisted birth in theatre; and my Bubs was taken out of the room the minute he was born to be checked by a paediatrician (he was very healthy).

My friends’ births all happened in very different ways. From water births lasting less than 8 hours, to emergency c-sections, to labours lasting over 3 days. Bleurgh. Now given the choice, I’m sure most of us would choose a short water birth if we had to pick from that delightful menu. Hmm, actually, would I? You can’t have diamorphine when you have a water birth and that’s about the only thing I’m looking forward to about going through labour again. So maybe I’d choose a short, drug-addled birth. Mmm, diamorphine…

In reality, you are more likely to look like this.

But I digress! The interesting thing is that my friends’ reactions to these births didn’t necessarily match-up with what others’ ideas of a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ births are. When I began open up to my Health Visitor (who is amazing) about how I felt about my birth (crap crap crappedy crap, in case you were wondering) she told me that when she was a midwife she saw that any type of birth could be distressing. You could be in the hospital with a woman having no pain relief, keeping relatively calm and using a birthing pool. You might think what a lovely birth it was, as a midwife who’s seen it all. But that same birth could leave the mother in a state of shock and feeling very vulnerable. Because, you know, as I mentioned before. Actual person. Your actual body. Combined. Actually happening.

But any woman who had a relatively quick birth, or who have managed to not have any pain relief, or even whose baby just had a small head, will inevitably be told that their ‘lucky’ at some point. The problem with this, especially when it comes from the mouths of other birth-mothers is what it implies. Because your basically saying ‘my labour was harder/worse than your labour’ or ‘oh it wasn’t that bad dear, do pipe down’. While some of that might be physically true, it is just plain unhelpful. If a woman is continually told this she may end up feeling belittled. She might begin to feel she can’t talk about her birth in negative terms at all. She might even feel she is being weak and self-important for wanting to express her feelings of trauma. And that would be crappy, wouldn’t it?

Because my birth wasn’t ‘straight-forward’ I generally got the sympathy I desired, but I do have one example of this. Shortly after giving birth I spoke to an old friend on the phone. She, like most people, asked about the birth. I said it hadn’t been very good and that I didn’t really want to talk about it as I found it all quite upsetting. Her response was to ask if had been, like, a bad bad birth, or whether I just felt it was bad? I replied it was probably ‘in the middle’, already feeling quite belittled. Then she launched into a description of a really bad birth. Dear reader, I must confess, I just held the phone away from my ear until it was over.

Now, I’m not saying that there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ birth. Of course there is! We all know of people who have gone through hell and, in a way, any of us who haven’t are lucky. I feel very lucky to live in a country where I wasn’t presented a bill at the end of my hospital stay and didn’t have to think about whether I could afford it when the doctors started talking about theatre. Come to think of it I’m bloody lucky to have been born in a country where there are enough hospitals to accommodate all births and two of them are 15 minutes from my house! So gratitude for your relative fortune is fantastic, but being told you should be grateful by some stranger who rolls their eyes as if to say ‘you just don’t get how hard it can be’? Well that’s just bloody annoying!

And it’s not just births that are surrounded by this kind of language. Take weight loss, for example. I am the first person to admit that I react with a curious mixture of jealousy and admiration when I see a fellow mum with a flat tummy. But there’s a weird thing in our society where people commenting, slightly bitterly, on someone’s (lack of) weight is totally socially acceptable. Thinner new mums are always being told they’re ‘lucky’ that the baby weight ‘just dropped off them’. But I’m pretty sure my retention of the extra stone around my middle is less to do with bad luck than with the amount of biscuits I eat.

What’s more, just because a woman’s thin we can’t assume she feels good about herself. Any celebrity mag can tell you that! Slimming down doesn’t mean her boobs haven’t gone all weird and changed shape. Or that the skin on her belly hasn’t turned from being all nice and smooth to resembling a loaf of tiger bread. And maybe, just maybe, the weight has ‘dropped off’ of her because she’s stressed and not eating properly. That doesn’t sound very lucky to me. (Look out for my new book The Anxiety Diet out in all good bookstores, spring 2015). Whatever the case, the effect is the same. ‘You’re lucky’ is usually taken to mean ‘you’re luckier than me’. And that can be interpreted as ‘count your blessings and shut up’.

It’s the same with everything. The mother whose baby sleeps well at night feels she shouldn’t talk about being tired. Now, I’m not saying go on about it to your friends who has twins who take it in turns to wake up six times a night, but I am saying that you probably are tired. Very tired. As far as I can make out, all parents exist on a spectrum of tiredness. Allow me to illustrate:

We're all bloody tired, ok?

We’re all bloody tired, ok?

In short, however ‘lucky’ a mum may seem, it’s still really really hard with a new born. So we all need to be able to express that.

Have you heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Well this dude Maslow was trying to explain why even when people live in safety and have all of their physical, and even intellectual, needs met they can still be unhappy. Basically, if you’re wondering whether your kids are going to be fed today you’re unlikely to have an existential crisis about the very meaning of your life. However, if you’re sitting with a hearty breakfast, having slept safely in your bed, about to go to your rewarding job, you’re more likely to think about people who have no food and wonder why you’re not content despite your riches. Huzzah, an existential crisis!

Well I’ve borrowed Maslow’s idea but adjusted it a little, for mums. What do you think?

An actual graph, what I made myself.

An actual graph, what I made myself.

Okay this isn’t going to make many ripples in the pond of postnatal psychology, but of the spirit of is true I think. Some of us will have it very physically rough. I know that my experience of postnatal depression was bad, but there are a lot worse things that could have happened. I am genuinely grateful for my lot. Even so, I also genuinely suffered. It is possible for any parent in any circumstance to find things unbelievably tough. This is sometimes hard to understand, even frustrating, especially when a mother is going on about how her baby sleeps so much she can barely leave the house (yes, that happened to me and no, I wasn’t totally understanding). But really, everyone needs a good moan. Especially a mum!

 

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This post is linked up to…

 

And then the fun began...

 

The Script. Or how to read yourself.

As a new mother you will have the same conversations over and over again. You will hear the birth stories of others related in every form, from a one-sentence mumble to an unnecessarily detailed blow-by-blow account. You may share your own repeatedly, even if it makes you feel slightly nauseated. You will talk about sleep a lot. In fact, you will probably talk about sleep more than you actually sleep. You will discuss all kinds of things that you would have once considered non-subjects, like what’s up for grabs in the latest Aldi baby event and the fact that you’ve found sugar-free kids’ fruit yoghurts. (Seriously, I tried to enthuse to my husband about the yoghurt; he was having any of it!)

Your interest in and enjoyment of these conversations will yo-yo terrifically. One moment you’ll be ranting on with the best of them about this sleep technique or that annoying midwife; the next you’ll be staring absent-mindedly out of the window just wishing you could talk about something apart from babies!

Occasionally, you will get to talk about yourself. You will talk about all of the unparalleled upheaval you are encountering on a daily basis. Even more occasionally you may actually be able to say how you really feel. I do hope so. But when you’re sleep-deprived to the point of madness it’s not always easy to actually know how you really feel. Ok, well you do know you feel exhausted, but other than that.

In the first months with my little new born boy who had big blue eyes and the even bigger cry, I didn’t pay much attention to myself at all. Even when I got the chance to talk about how I was doing within myself I rarely took it. Looking back I notice that I had a few stock answers I would roll out. They were sort of like mantras I could repeat. I now call these sentences the Script and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only parent who has one.

There were two main lines in my Script that I remember saying over and over again. The first was “I don’t feel like I love him, but I know I do.” This would only be said to a select few, but even then I would say it in a breezy, optimistic voice, as if I were sharing some positive self-discovery. Or (worse?) offering reassurance to my nearest and dearest. The other, which probably came about from week 6 onwards, was “It’s funny because, I sort of know it’s easier now, but I don’t feel like it’s easier yet.” Nice little know/feel motif running through there, don’tcha think? What can I say? I’m a natural playwright.

So why was I saying these things? What purpose did they serve? Well, I think they were both really about convincing myself rather than anyone else. When you don’t get that instant rush of love as new mum it’s scary. So I just kept saying ‘I know I love him’, ‘I know I love him’. I’m not sure I really did know it. There was a small voice in the back of my mind saying “but what if I don’t?” and so I used the Script to counter that. And of course, to ward off the gnawing guilt that would raise its all-too-familiar ugly head whenever I contemplated this point.

It’s pretty obviously me repeatedly saying “I know it’s easier” was my way of trying to speak up over the harassed madwoman inside who was screaming “It’s not getting easier. WHY ISN’T IT GETTING EASIER???” And, much worse, it was a little stick to beat myself with. It’s easier now, what’s wrong with you? You’re supposed to be enjoying this! The thing is it actually wasn’t easier. Ok, he had calmed a bit after the switch to formula because he wasn’t starving hungry all the time any more. Yes he did sometimes sleep for 3 ½ hours straight (big woop!). But I was tired. Really, really tired. I’d been at it for 2 months and there was no let up.

I wonder now what would have happened if I’d taken more notice of my Script at the time. If I listen to those words now they seem to be clear early warning signs. You know that you love your baby but you don’t feel it? So you can’t feel any love at the moment? Well that seems a bit crap. You’re getting a bit more sleep and there’s less crying but it still feels achingly hard? Hmm, that doesn’t sound great either. Do you think you might be depressed? You know, like you have been previously several times in your life? Duh.

But when a new mum is tearful and tired we all think it’s just exhaustion and hormones. Why wouldn’t we? Everyone gets tearful and tired. The image of postnatal depression is one where you are afraid of or repulsed by your child. Of course that happens and it’s awful. But PND can be a very subtle beast. You may not realise you’re in its jaws until you wake up one day and it’s as if of the lights have gone out.

So, do you have a Script? Anything you’ve been saying to friends and family repeatedly that you don’t quite believe? Anything you keep saying in the subconscious hope someone else picks up on it? Or have you heard a Script that you didn’t find believable recently? Mothers can be very good actors; we need someone to see through the performance every now and then.