Author, Blogger, Mother, Procrastinator.
Big fan of honesty.
LEGOLAND (Extract from The Unmumsy Mum Diary)
Friday 2 September 2016 Oh Lordy. I am writing the bare bones of this diary entry as an iPhone note in the car while James drives. We have just left the Land of Lego behind us and are now sitting in Friday-evening commuter traffic ahead of a three-hour drive home, so I thought it would be as good a time as any to debrief on the whole experience. I just asked James whether he could help me out by providing a summary of our family’s outing to the brick-themed adventure park and, after a long exhalation of breath, he replied simply, ‘Fuck me.’ So I’m going to try to flesh it out a little bit. Firstly, I should say that the entire ‘take Henry to the place he most wants to go on earth that isn’t Disney World Florida’ endeavour was arguably worth it purely to see his little face when we first walked through the gates and told him he was in charge of the park map. I’m not sure at what age kids are able to start banking long-term memories but as Henry stood tracing his finger over all the rides on the map and staring in wide-eyed wonder at all the buzz and commotion, I felt certain that he would remember this trip. If he doesn’t remember it, I will drip-feed him a favourable version of events until he thinks he remembers it. Whatever happens, it’s safe to say James and I have banked a long-term memory of Legoland. The day started with some vocalised impatience from a pram-restricted Jude. He gets irritated whenever the pram isn’t moving, so things got tetchy as we waited in the Q-Bot line for what felt like an eternity. (There’s something ironic about queuing for a device that alleviates queuing, no?) After finally setting off to properly begin our Big Day of Fun and making our way towards the first ride, it soon became apparent that the day wasn’t going to unfold quite as we had imagined when Henry performed a dramatic U-turn on his chief reason for having begged us to go there in the first place. You know all those rides he’s been telling us he has been desperate to go on ‘all his life’? The rides he has made us watch endless hours of YouTube footage of? The rides we secretly feared he would be too young or too short to go on? It turns out the age and height thing was pretty bloody irrelevant because he didn’t want to go on any of them. Not one. (Deep breath) ‘But Henry, sweetheart, this is the Dragon’s Apprentice! You know, your “favourite ride” that you were telling Grandad about? Shall we get in the queue?’‘No! I don’t want to go on it! I want to watch other people on it. Can I have a snack?’‘Sorry, pudding, Mummy’s just trying to understand what’s going on here. You want to watch other people go on all the rides you said you wanted to go on? It’s not snack time yet. We’ve just got here, to ride some rides. Shall we have a wander along to see if you want to go on a different ride?’‘OK, I’ll have a look at the other rides. Then I’ll have a snack.’ The exchange of glances between James and me at this stage was a mixture of ‘Fuck my life’ and ‘Whose idea was this?’ The entire trip had, of course, been my idea and, in the preceding two days, James had endured several hours’ driving and ‘sweaty balls’ from the sauna-like sleeping conditions at the budget hotel - all as a warm-up act for this outing, to give our little H-bomb his special treat before he starts school. Do you want to know how the day panned out, in the end? Well, Jude, back in his pushchair (after having lost his shit on the only toddler-friendly ride he'd agreed to sit on), ended up sitting on James’s shoulders as I followed behind with one hand on Henry and the other on the empty pushchair, which I had to slalom between hordes of excited families as they made bee-lines for rides their children actually wanted to go on. We parted with the best part of £15 for two lacklustre baguettes and some water which the boys then turned their noses up at. I failed to capture a ‘look at how much fun we’re having on our day out!’ family photo and, overall, aside from the forty minutes they both spent happily playing in the splash pool (a definite hit, but we have water parks in Devon), neither of the boys wanted to go on anything. We ended up having to use the lure of a toy in the gift shop to essentially bribe our firstborn to allow us to take him on just a couple of the rides he had been begging us to take him on for months. After a quick ram-raid of the shop on our way out, we are now sitting in the above-mentioned traffic jam, with Jude having a Danger Nap (anything after 4 p.m. spells trouble), me checking my phone for travel updates, James staring ahead like he’s dreaming of leaving us all and Henry piping up with completely random questions every two minutes, such as:‘Who’s taller? Jude or a penguin?’‘Why are roads called roads?’‘Does Father Christmas wear pyjamas?’And ‘How did pterodactyls die out?’ I bet pterodactyls died out not because of the impact of a meteor or some kind of climate change sixty-something million years ago but because the mummy pterodactyls were so stressed after a day out at DinoLand that they ate their babies. I might tell Henry that if he doesn’t stop talking. I know it’s frowned upon to daydream about alcohol or indeed to rely on a bottle of something as a pick-me-up when things get stressful, but I am now properly fantasising about pouring myself a glass of Sauvignon Blanc as big as my head. What a day. The Unmumsy Mum Diary is out in paperback on 22 February. Available to pre-order here.
Poogate! Extract from The Unmumsy Mum Diary
Friday 26th August 2016 Oh my God, I can’t breathe for laughing. This tale of early motherhood, from a mum who has asked to remain anonymous, is, quite frankly, the sort of stuff I wish I had heard at antenatal classes – not that it would have prepared me for anything (there could be no preparation for this, and you’ll see why), but it would have made me laugh and given me a snapshot of reality, which is a darn sight more than the Bounty pack ever did. The message is pretty lengthy but I couldn’t bring myself to condense it when she has described the unfolding events so well. Enjoy. Oh, and maybe don’t read on if you’re eating . . . So I was reading a ‘things no one tells you when you have a baby’ article the other day – you know, the ones that circulate on Facebook, and it made me think of a particular occurrence in our house, from not long after I had our son, my second baby. My husband and I lovingly refer to this day as ‘Shitgate’, and I think I’m ready, after two years, to share it with the world. This is something that nobody warned me about. I arrived home after a few extra days on the ward, having had an elective C-section (thanks to problems with previous labour, but that’s a whole other horror story), and, after probably a few more days, I felt that familiar rumble and decided it was that time ‒ time for my first poo. The fear hit me, as it had last time – what would happen, would I be able to poo? Would my bum fall out? Would I burst a stitch? Would I end up with piles? Would I even be able to go? It occurred to me that I couldn’t actually recollect my last ‘motion’. It was certainly before I went into hospital, so it must have been at least a week ago, and with someone bringing me three square meals a day, which I didn’t have to cook myself (or wait to go cold while feeding everyone else before eating), I obviously didn’t turn any of it down. A considerable volume of additional boredom snacks, late-night feed snacks, and any-excuse-for-extra-snacks snacks had also been consumed. This might be a bit of a biggun, I thought. Little did I know. So I told hubby what I was up to and could he keep an eye on the kids, and off I went up the stairs, with no idea of the events that would unfold. I sat down and, at first, there was nothing. How could this be? I definitely needed to go, why couldn’t I go? As the minutes wore on I started to worry. I tried moving about, walking around, feet up on a stool, you know, all the normal stuff. This was starting to hurt, I was getting desperate, I really, REALLY needed to go. I asked hubster for some laxatives, but no luck, they didn’t help, so in a bit of panic now, I called the out-of-hours doctor. He (yes, a man, fab) was very understanding and said he’d email a prescription straight to Sainsbury’s so I could collect it. Several phone calls to Sainsbury’s and nearly two hours later, hurrah ‒ they have my suppositories there and we can collect them immediately. By this time, it’s the middle of the night, I’m glued to the loo, afraid that I’m gonna have an epic bum explosion at any given moment, but at the same time petrified that I won’t. The only person my husband can get hold of to come and sit with the kids, so he can nip out and collect the prescription while I’m stuck on the loo, is my father-in-law. Arghhhhh. He’s one of those manly builder types, so over he comes (did I mention that our bathroom door, at the top of the stairs, directly in front of you as you come in the front door, doesn’t close?) and now he’s sat downstairs in probable silence with my brand-new baby while I’m sat on the loo trying to shit. Thank God, he’s had four of his own, so I try to convince myself that he’s seen it all before and that at some point he’s surely already encountered some sort of labour/pregnancy/ baby poo situations. This was painful now. I felt like I was gonna poo, but no poo (plenty of sodding wind, though), and I felt like my stitches were just about to burst open. This was hideous. Hubby arrived home with the thing, with THE most fear I’ve ever seen in a man’s eyes, as he bounded up the stairs two at a time it crossed his mind that he might be asked to administer his bounty. Over my dead body. So I did the deed alone and, bloody hell, it did do what it was meant to do, in some respects. If you didn’t know this, apparently glycerol, which is what suppositories are made of, is a mild irritant – they basically make your bum muscles angry. So angry that, hopefully, you poo. Is that what I needed, to make it MORE ANGRY?! This was an epic fail. Now I felt EVEN MORE DESPERATE to poo, like more desperate than ever, and EVEN MORE ANGRY. I couldn’t understand it, why couldn’t I just poo? I’d felt permanently just on the brink for the past five hours, FIVE HOURS on the loo. I did next something that I will regret forever: I decided to reach around and have a feel. There were piles. Lots of piles. Could this get any worse? I asked myself. Yes. Yes, it could. Ah, I’ll call NHS direct, they’ll help. They wanted to know everything ‒ my whole medical history, my life story, my every movement since the moment I became pregnant. On their clever multiple choice ‘yes go left, no go right’ flow-chart thingy, one of the questions was ‘Do you have any pain in your chest?’ Well, by this time, everything ached, so innocently, the response that fell from my mouth was ‘Well, yes, a little actually.’ That was it. I was informed that, because I had answered yes to this question, they’d be sending an ambulance. WTF? I didn’t need an ambulance, I just needed a poo! I pleaded, I begged, please pleeeeeease don’t send an ambulance, it’s a total waste, they’re not THOSE kind of chest pains, Christ that’s not what I meant. No, they’re sorry, they have to send one, it’s on the screen. Fucking hell. There was a knock on the door as the dark bathroom filled with flashes of blue, and in they came, perched now on the side of the bath, while I sat there, pants round my ankles, horrific wind, piles the size of small countries, a desperate look on my face, and toilet-seat marks imprinted on my arse. I could not have apologised enough as we all sat there together, making small talk in our now foul-smelling bathroom, while I tried to poo and everyone else tried badly to pretend that this was ‘all in a day’s work’. Unbeknown to me, there was a small crowd of neighbours gathering outside, who’d seen the blue lights and, knowing I was about to have the baby, put two and two together and got God knows what, so my husband went out to let them know that all is OK and Mum and babe are fine, thanks for the concern. But all was not well, Mum is definitely not fine. If Mum doesn’t poo soon she is actually and genuinely going to explode. Her stitches are going to burst and a fortnight’s worth of poo is going to fly out. The ambulance crew – satisfied that I am not on the brink of a poo-induced heart attack and having fulfilled their duty of care – make their escape. A couple more suppositories and close to half a litre of lactulose later, and finally, through gritted teeth, and with tears in my eyes, it happens! And Jesus Christ does it happen. Once I start, I literally cannot stop. It goes on for what feels like forever, it’s like a labour all on its own – I swear the evacuated material was close to the weight of a newborn. As I turned in fear to observe my creation, it was with utter shock that I discovered that I hadn’t just blocked the toilet: no, no, I had filled it. YES, FILLED IT. Right to the top, the very top. How was this even possible? Exhausted from my ordeal, I had a quick shower and flaked out on the couch as, by this time, we were in the small hours and the baby would need another feed any moment. I had no idea, then, that my husband was about to undertake a task no husband should ever have to undertake. Yes, I’m pretty sure all husbands or partners see things or do things that they definitely didn’t foresee or sign up for when they got us up the duff, but that night, my husband, with a dustpan and carrier bag in hand, silently did the unthinkable. The toilet was finally clear and my husband had the same look on his face that he had after his first peek of me crowning in my first labour – the look of a man changed forever. Only this time, instead of a beautiful bouncing baby to hold at the end, he had a pegged nose and a Bag for Life full of his wife’s poo. Two years later, and we are thankfully able to laugh about it, but I’m surprised he’s been able to look at me ‘that way’ since then. It’s certainly something I don’t recall being warned about before I got pregnant. The Unmumsy Mum Diary is out in paperback on 22 February. Available to pre-order here.
“Oh, Wilf.” I must have said this a thousand times during the four and a half weeks that made up January. They were long weeks. In fact, though my calendar told me otherwise, I’m pretty certain Wednesday 31st was, in fact, the 87th of January. I am not a hater of Januarys, generally. I hate New Year’s resolutions but I combat that by not making any. I hate the cold weather but that’s only because our house is damp and it gets tedious wet-wiping mould off the walls. This year, however, I was pretty fecking glad to see the back of January after I’d spent almost all of it in close proximity to a baby who was either screaming in my ear or head-butting my boob in a state of agitation. January was loud. And a bit sad, if truth be told. After the loveliest of starts to the third-baby adventure, we soon found ourselves with a baby who could not be settled. At first, we told ourselves that this wasn’t unusual. Our bigger boys had probably been just the same as babies and we’d simply forgotten. However, as James paced the bedroom with an extremely upset Wilf for what must have been the seventh or eighth night in a row, and I sat up in bed falling in and out of sleep, completely off my tits due to the fact that the baby was never off my tits, we conceded that ‘something wasn’t right.’ We’re not new to the baby thing. We had expected to pace around ssshhing a colicky baby in the hour or two before bedtime. We knew that feeding ‘on demand’ meant my boobs would be out more than they would be in. But Wilf was miserable. He spent every waking minute of every day crying and every sleeping minute (which were few and far between) looking like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders, occasionally waking from his slumber to cry out as though somebody had dropped something on him from a great height. Though on paper, breastfeeding was going well (he was putting on weight, my nipples were never once sore and comments were made about the ‘perfect latch’), the word I would use to describe the majority of our feeds was fretful. He would feed for a few minutes, get extremely upset and then give up. Worrying that there was a problem with my supply, I tried expressing some milk and found I had enough to feed him ten times over. He was also extremely sick. Puddles of it, over his shoulders, our shoulders and our bedding, so perhaps there was too much milk? I read up online about problems with oversupply and ‘forceful let-downs’, so started pumping milk off at the start of each feed so he wouldn’t be choking on an initial fast flow. That didn’t help either. Every day we hoped we’d turn a corner and every day he seemed more cross. Having experienced babies with reflux before, I took him to the doctor and we started on good-old Gaviscon to thicken his feeds. It lessened the sick puddles but he was no happier. I took him back to the doctor and we started on ranitidine. I also decided at this point to cut out dairy from my diet, after I’d read lots of stories about extremely unhappy babies who had turned out to have cows’ milk protein intolerance. Nothing seemed to help. I took to Instagram and Facebook to gather advice. I gathered a lot of advice. If I was cutting out dairy I should probably try cutting out soya, too. We should try a dummy. I should wear him in a sling. We should try cranial osteopathy. I needed to drink fennel tea. We should try this magical hold guaranteed to stop babies crying as demonstrated by a doctor in a viral YouTube video. I soaked up these suggestions like a sponge and tried them all. Nothing helped. If anything, he was getting more upset. I had stopped wanting to take him out because it always ended in us having to leave or come home. Then one evening, as I Googled ‘My baby is broken’ or similar for the umpteenth time, I stumbled upon a thread about tongue tie and remembered that this had also been mentioned in the social media comments. I had, perhaps mistakenly, dismissed the suggestion that he could have a tongue tie because I knew it had already been checked. And yet the more I read about it the more I became convinced that it was his tongue that was causing us problems. I booked yet another appointment to see the doctor and tried to push to the back of my mind the worry that I was becoming one of those mothers who diagnoses her kids’ ailments via Mumsnet threads. The third doctor I saw agreed that Wilf’s tongue didn’t look ‘quite right’ and said he would make an appointment for us to see a paediatrician. How long will that take? I asked him, over the sound of Wilf’s crying which I’d become so used to I was starting to wonder if I was going deaf. He couldn’t be sure, he’d send a letter, and I knew in that moment that I wouldn’t be able to wait for the letter. We were at breaking point, all of us. James was glum. Henry and Jude had stopped even trying to interact with their baby brother because all he did was scream at them. And I was sad. Really bloody sad. So, when I got home I emailed a lactation consultant who advertised having a specialist knowledge of tongue tie and I booked an appointment. It was the best thing I did. It took her five seconds, if that, to confirm that Wilf did indeed have a tongue tie, which, she believed, had meant feeding had been really hard work for him. As a result, he had been giving up before he was full, then demanding another feed an hour later (a pattern we’d been repeating on a loop until he had a permanent stomach ache and I’d lost the will to live). She was able to snip the tie then and there (not nearly as harrowing as it sounds) but advised it might take a couple of weeks for his tongue to build up enough strength to feed efficiently. Unfortunately, just the thought of having two more torturous, crying-filled weeks stretching out in front of us was too much for me to even contemplate. Even one more week seemed unbearable. So, on Thursday morning, after three further days with an extremely unhappy baby and a genuine worry that I was making myself unwell, I woke James up and told him that he needed to go out and get some formula. After almost eight weeks of stressful feeds, the tongue tie diagnosis had sadly come too late and I was no longer feeling positive about breastfeeding. I would express a few more bottles but I was done. It’s a funny old thing, breastfeeding. I was almost too scared to admit here that I’d ‘given up’ because although I have written extensively about the importance of not beating ourselves up and of doing what is best for the whole family, I have also been on the receiving end of stick about my feeding choices in the past. It’s almost not worth the hassle of being honest. But only almost. Because the most remarkable thing has happened since my near-breakdown on Thursday and I want to shout about it from the rooftops … Wilf has started smiling! And sleeping. And enjoying his feeds. We've been out for walks where he hasn't screamed, Last night, I even watched Coronation Street and when you've spent a month or so at the end of your tether feeling completely helpless, the normality of sitting down for thirty minutes of telly feels like heaven (even more so because I made up for the lost two weeks' dairy by inhaling some chocolate). He still has reflux but it's only causing us a headache in terms of washing. I can cope with washing. We're only a couple of days into February, I know, but we have turned the corner I’m sure of it. Anyway, I wanted to write this update blog post mainly so I could say a massive THANK YOU to each and every person who took the time to message me with support and suggestions. It was down to you that a seed of doubt was planted about whether his tongue had been assessed thoroughly and ultimately gave me the kick up the arse to seek help and finally get to the bottom of what has been making him so unhappy. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have got my joyful baby boy back. xx
One Month of Wilf
And just like that (well, after nine months of human-growing followed by a memorable trip to the Royal Devon & Exeter) I am now the proud owner of THREE children! Having only just ‘come back’ after a month away from social media (good for the soul, I’d recommend it), I feel like there is almost too much to update you on so I’m not really sure where to start. I’d like to document the birth at some point but I’m existing on such a tiny amount of sleep right now that I’m not sure I could do the story justice (quick summary: best birth of all three by a country mile, it started with contractions during Henry’s nativity, hypnobirthing was an absolute game-changer and the bloody placenta got stuck again). The most important piece of information is that at 11:50PM on Tuesday 12 December, exactly one week before his due date, Wilf Nicholas made his way down the lady-garden slide and into the birthing pool, all 8lb 13oz of him. We’re now almost 5 weeks in to life with our new bundle of baby boy goodness and so far, it has been a tale of two halves. The first fortnight was a blissful Christmassy bubble. Wilf did a lot of sleeping, I did a lot of staring at him sleeping and, after school had broken up for the holidays, our days revolved around lazy cuddles, Christmas films, short bursts of fresh air and the occasional trip to the shower so I could hand-express my boobs, which to start with seemed to produce enough milk to feed the five thousand. The hormones hit me in a good way this time and instead of the WTF is this? face of terror I wore for most of Henry and Jude’s earliest days (or Henry’s entire first year, to be honest), with Wilf, I had that sudden rush of love I thought was an urban legend and spent the night feeds stroking his little ears and beaming like a (happily) mad woman. In fact, at one point I started wondering if I was going to have to shut this blog down or at the very least change it to The Mumsy Mum because I had never felt more at home or at ease with the role. This was it. It had clicked. The competent-mum gene or whatever it was that had been missing for the best part of six years and had made me swear under my breath and sometimes cry, well - it must have found its way to me at last. This was probably going to be the start of a new parenting chapter for all of us. Henry and Jude would benefit from this new mum who was kind of gliding around the house with a baby and a muslin draped over one shoulder as she rustled up sandwiches with the other hand, laughing at their jokes and making a mental note to sign Henry up for after school football practice and Jude up for something, anything, that wasn’t an afterthought or an add-on to that of his big brother. To tell you the truth, I was absolutely bossing it. Our mate Ruth would have been proud. And then came the shit-hitting-the-fan day. Christmas had been and gone, things were starting to feel a bit more like normal (or the after-Christmas limbo version of normal, where you eat a whole Chocolate Orange and some leftover cold meats for breakfast, because you can), and slowly but surely the bubble of bliss started to unravel before our eyes. Wilf became both ‘spirited’ and refluxy at the exact same moment that somebody kidnapped our charming three-year-old and replaced him with a behaviour-malfunctioning lookalike who smears his eczema cream on the walls for fun, screams blue bloody murder at everything and generally has zero fucks to give when it comes to guidance or instruction from his parents, particularly in public. We expected this to some extent, of course – our little Judy Pops has gone from being the baby of the family to the ‘middle child’ (nobody say ‘difficult,’ I can’t be hearing that right now) – but his ‘adjustment’ has been slightly more alarming than we’d anticipated. The WTF is this? face of terror made its appearance on the day when, after a clash of heads and lots of crying from Henry and Jude who had been wrestling, Wilf joined in with the crying and didn’t stop crying until he projectile vomited all over the sleepsuit I’d just put him in, having changed him out of the one he’d decorated with his korma-coloured excrement a few moments before. And that’s pretty much been the balance ever since. A mixture of days when we’re doing fine – sometimes more than fine, some days I smile and coo at Wilf and somehow manage to squeeze in a bedtime story for my other two babies to ease my cheating-on-them feelings of guilt - and other days when quite honestly, it’s purely about survival. Where James and I look at each other and shout, over the sound of the white noise that we had hoped would soothe his windy fussing, "Isn’t three a LOT of kids?"
You probably won't remember me.
I saw you at the park on a rainy afternoon last week...
An open letter to the mum with the red coat
The birth (no need to cry)
I was asked last week what advice, if any, I would give to brand new parents. I couldn’t help but think back to myself as a new mum. It made me feel a bit sad...
Cherish Every Moment? Nope
The birth (no need to cry)
Following the birth of Jude in September, I spent the last few months of 2014 feeling frazzled. And short-tempered. In fact, I spent at least two-thirds of...
Fuck you, Supermum
the unmumsy mum store
Motherhood like it really is: the messy, maddening, hilarious reality, how there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach and how it is sometimes absolutely fine to not know what you are doing.