Not a Dicky Bird
Last month, an advert came on telly for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. Henry, who has never previously shown much of an interest in wildlife, surprised me by saying, "I want to do that! If you phone up, they send you a pack to count the birds! Can we do it, Mum?" Of course we could do it, I told him. I’d phone up and get us the pack. After a longer than anticipated call to claim our free pack, where I tried to justify why we weren’t about to sign up on the spot to become RSPB members for a year (‘I’ll see how we go with the Big Garden Birdwatch, Karen, then take it from there’), a pack was on its way to us with all the info we needed to take part. The Birdwatch was taking place over the weekend of 26-28 January and to join in with the survey, we simply needed to make a note of the number of birds we could see in an hour of our choice during that time. There was lots of excitement from both Henry and Jude in the run up to Birdwatch Weekend. Where would we sit to count the birds in our garden? Who would hold the pencil? Could they have a pencil each?! I, too, was excited. It felt like a nice, wholesome activity for the boys to do, away from playing video games or watching other people play video games on YouTube. I have no idea what we were up to on the Saturday of that weekend but the day came and went without us remembering that it was Birdwatch time. Most of Sunday also whizzed past, with the pack sitting unloved on the kitchen counter, until Henry said casually at 4:30PM, just as it was starting to get dark, "When are we doing our birdwatching then?” Shit. I knew we still had a third day, the Monday, to take part but he would be at school for most of it and I’d be at work until 5PM. It was a ‘now or never’ scenario so we decided to go for it, though I had to delay the start by a further five minutes to stick some jacket potatoes in the oven. We chose the boys’ bedroom as our watch-spot as it has the best view of the back garden. They made themselves comfy on Henry’s bed and I handed over pencils, explaining what we needed to do. It was quite simple. We needed to count the number of birds we saw, of each type, on our scrap paper. At the end, we’d write the final totals on the form and I'd enter those results online. We had a beautiful leaflet with pictures of the different birds on it to help us identify what we were seeing and for the first thirty seconds it was lovely watching the pair of them scan the garden, pencils poised. It was from there that it all went a bit downhill, really. The biggest and most fundamental issue was that there weren’t any fucking birds. Not one. I had read that in terms of the survey results, even a zero-score would be helpful data but it’s not helpful when you’re six and four and have been excited about counting birds for weeks. The lack of birds was, at least in part, my fault. I hadn't managed to put out anything by way of bird feeders in advance to entice the buggers in. I imagine birds fly over our garden talking to their birdie mates, saying, ‘fuck all down there, Barry, you're better off heading to number 25.’ It was also getting increasingly dark and we were squinting to see. I suggested we widened the search outside of our own garden, to include our neighbours’ gardens on both sides and those gardens we could see in the distance, which at one stage got very exciting until we realised the ‘blackbird’ we’d spotted in a tree was, in fact, a dog-poo bag that had been slung high up into the branches. I gave words of encouragement about not giving up and the importance of persevering for the hour, sensing their fidgeting, then I asked them to keep a close watch while I quickly went downstairs to check on the potatoes. Quite remarkably, by the time I’d returned, I was informed that there had been a flurry of bird-based activity in the garden (in the dark). They’d seen five blackbirds, a wood pigeon AND a collared dove! Henry also thought he might have seen a long-tailed tit and Jude pointed at the goldfinch picture to tell me he’d seen two. What a busy two minutes! As I tried to explain the importance of being precise about what we’d seen and not recording things we weren’t certain of, we ended up with a slightly scaled-back total of three blackbirds and one wood pigeon, which I still suspected were about as likely to be found in our dark, barren garden as a unicorn but I could hardly tell them I thought they were making it up. As I later recounted the experience to James ("a collared fucking dove!"), I wondered if it had been a waste of time. It had certainly felt like a bit of a pointless exercise and I’d no doubt screwed up our chances of success by failing to put food out and not encouraging the boys to get up at the crack of sparrows to see some actual sparrows. However, a few days later when they heard someone mention the Birdwatch, Henry and Jude were quick to say, ‘We did that! Didn’t we, Mummy? Mummy sent in our results*’ and I realised it hadn’t all been in vain. We had a go. We tried. All right, the reality fell way short of the expectation, as it so often does, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth doing. We joined in and who knows, next year, if I get a bird feeder sorted, we might see some actual birds that aren’t dog-poo bags in trees. I'm glad we tried. I hope the boys remember it. *I did submit our results, as I promised them I would. However, if anyone from the RSPB is reading this, I would suggest reducing the overall total by three blackbirds and one wood pigeon.
Lately! (Life, Kids, Work, Stuff).
It has been nearly three months since I last wrote a blog post and for that I am truly sorry. I’m not sure I can even call myself a 'blogger' these days. However, this afternoon I felt the urge to write something by way of an update so here we are. Back in the game. I have missed it. The problem with being shit at blogging regularly is that I now don’t know where to start by way of an update, so I’m going to approach it as though we were having a chat in Tesco. One of those bullet-point type chats where you attempt to summarise everything in your life that’s happened lately, before the kids kick off. Let’s start with the boys. Henry is now in Year Two, really into his football and can generally be found ‘hype’ dancing or ‘taking the L’ around the living-room (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, these dance crazes haven’t found your children yet. Protect them at all costs). Jude doesn’t yet share his brother’s love of football and instead prefers playing Lego and singing songs from The Greatest Showman which is really cute and everything but loses its edge when he bellows, “FROM NOW ON, THESE EYES WILL NOT BE BLINDED BY THE LIGHTS!” next to our heads at 6am. He will join Henry at school in September and I’m not sure my heart will cope. That said, he already walks around the playground at pick-up like he owns the place so I’m hoping he’s going to be just fine. Wilf turned one in December, is walking (albeit unsteadily) and in all honesty, is a complete fucking menace. Seriously, we have excelled ourselves with this one. He’s high achieving on the adorable front, gives us lots of giggles and cuddles, however his sleeping at thirteen months is still hit and miss and he screams if we do any of the following: change his nappy, put him down, put him in the pram, put him in the car, take his empty food bowl away, force him to wear socks, stop him from licking Henry’s wellies. He also shits every time we strap him in his car seat. Every time. If it happens to be a day with lots of car journeys, you’re looking at a ten-poo total. It’s almost a skill to squeeze that many out but he’s up for the challenge. It’s been five months since we moved house and took on the mother of all fixer-uppers. Despite the testing moments so far, including squashing my arse into a 60-litre plastic storage tub full of water when we had no bathroom for three weeks, I’m still glad we bought it. I can’t say it’s the ‘forever home’ because forever is a very long time but it’s most definitely our ‘very long term house’ (not got quite the same ring to it) and it feels like home already. I am two thirds of the way through writing book number three which will come out later this year! I keep switching between 'I think people will like this' and 'I'm certain nobody will like this,' though I think I remember this stage from the last two. I am working in a proper co-working office a few days a week now and it’s amazing – I can pretend to be all professional like the other people with real jobs and nobody shouts, “finished!” at me then expects me to wipe their bum. I’ve also lined myself up a job (working for somebody else) to keep me busy in the months between handing my book in and it being published, as it turns out I miss going out ‘to’ work and hanging about on social media doesn't tickle my pickle enough for it to be my job. (Also Instagram won't give me a blue tick so evidently I'm not enough of an influencer to make it. I could act all nonchalant and tell you I don't care but I did apply three times, which makes me even more of a loser than I first feared). I think that’s about the measure of it. The actual bullet-points would be:TiredBusyHappyUnverified Book 3 on its way, hurrah! Until the next time (apologies in advance if that’s 2021). S xx
What is it about parenting that turns us all into our own worst critics, more so than in any other area of our lives? When it comes to the other stuff, we generally forgive ourselves for having the odd 'off day'. The occasional unproductive day at work, when you have a list as long as your arm of tasks that need completing but somehow only get around to completing a Facebook quiz to find out what your Game of Thrones character name would be. Days when your mojo goes AWOL. Days when you had one too many the night before. Days when you drop the ball and send an email slagging off Brian from sales, to Brian from sales. In relationships, too, there are times we screw up. Forget to send a friend a birthday card. Do or say something hurtful to a partner in the heat of the moment and owe them then apology. Sometimes we feel bad about it for a while after but rarely do we allow ourselves to live under a doom-cloud of remorse indefinitely. That’s because we don’t assume that those days are a fair reflection of our overall standard as an employee/friend/lover. We just had an off day. An off couple of days, perhaps. It happens. When it comes to parenting, however, we rarely allow ourselves the same slack. Or indeed any slack. On those hurried mornings when we forget that it’s Jeans for Genes day at nursery and arrive to a sea of denim and a sinking feeling. Or when, after enduring hour upon hour of sibling scrapping, something snaps and we end up shrieking like a fishwife in the park, before dragging the offending children home by their coat hoods under the judgemental glare of other parents. The better parents. I know, or at least I do now after having been unconvinced for a long while, that I am a good mum. Sometimes it feels good to say it. I am a good mum. (In my head or quietly to myself, I mean, not out loud at the school gates as that might make me sound like a bit of a tosser). I do my best for my boys; they are safe, happy and loved beyond measure. I also know that there are days when I am not such a good mum. When I’m exhausted or frustrated, or a bit under the weather. When I'm preoccupied with work or just feeling a bit low. Sometimes I am all of those things at once. When that happens, it is hard not to beat yourself up and very easy to find yourself falling headfirst into an I’m-not-good-enough vortex where you question your parental capabilities and say, ‘I just can’t do this today.’ The thing I have come to realise about being a parent, however, is that you do do it. On those days when you don’t think you can, when for whatever reason you’re not firing on all parenting cylinders and are in desperate need of a break, you still show up. So no, your children might not always get the best of you but that's only because the best of you isn’t always there to give. And rather than those 'off days' signalling that you are a bad parent, maybe just maybe it's the giving of whatever you've got, when there is next to nothing left in the tank, that makes you a bloody good one.
Top 5: Really Bloody Useful Baby Products (not an ad)
1. White Noise MachineI could probably dedicate an entire book to our White Noise journey. When we had Henry (over six years ago now, time flies when you're having fun!) we started with the very best of intentions. We'd researched what we should and shouldn't do to encourage healthy sleep patterns and associations and certainly weren't going to allow our bundle to become dependent on white noise to help him settle - that would be ridiculous! All our baby would need would be a little dab of essential oils massaged into his feet and then we'd be able to 'put him down awake' while chortling smugly at all the other silly billies who were making a rod for their own backs by blasting the hairdryer for twenty minutes or putting the Moses basket next to the tumble dryer. I think it was approximately two days before we cracked under the strain of relentless colicky crying and zero sleep and decided we would trial a spot of white noise ('as a one-off') played through our phones. It was, quite simply, a revelation. It didn't solve all of our problems, of course, but it helped a tiny baby Henry to fall asleep and stay asleep and from there began our love affair with low frequency vacuum cleaner noises. The problem with playing white noise via YouTube/iTunes/Spotify, was that we were constantly reliant on our phones or the iPad being next to the baby. We had a bash at using speakers connected wirelessly to our phones, but fell out of love with that option the day I forgot the two devices were paired and blasted the audio from a horror movie trailer (playing on my Facebook timeline) straight up to the nursery. Not recommended. This was followed by us panic purchasing several white-noise bears and other cuddly creatures with sound boxes hidden inside them. Ones with cry sensors that would 'kick back in' if the baby stirred, or play your chosen noise for a certain number of minutes. Between our various noisy bears and smartphones we managed just fine to keep up with our hoover-audio habit when baby Jude joined the party three years later. This year, after becoming the proud owners of our third baby, we (or rather my husband) felt compelled to Google 'white noise machines you can plug in' after one of the cuddly options yet again ran out of batteries in the middle of the night. Step forward, the Avantek White Noise Machine, which plays 2o 'soothing natural sounds' continuously or for as long as you want (it has timer settings) and is mains-powered, The Dream. I posted about it on my Instagram Stories a couple of weeks ago and have already had loads of messages from mums and dads who have followed suit and are reporting back to say, "OMG it's brilliant!!!" so this is me simply sharing the love. It doesn't look as pretty as the cuddly ones but it does its job and I CANNOT RECOMMEND IT ENOUGH. It's nice to imagine a time in the future when our family won't be reliant on the background hum of a fan to drift off to to sleep but until then, this bad boy is the bee's knees. Price: £29.99Available from: Avantek, via Amazon.Did I pay for it? Yep! 2. My Friend Goo As I type this, I have just put a very cross baby Wilf down for a nap (with the white noise blasting, obvs) and MY GOD he has been hard work today. I know it's not his fault, I know he is never deliberately 'hard work' but his teeth have been causing him no end of bother and Jesus, don't we know it! I'm pretty sure he has been teething since the moment he came out. We have trialled loads of teethers since and the best one by far is My Friend Goo, a lightweight natural rubber beauty. For Wilf, the charm comes from the fact that Goo is super easy for small babies to keep hold of (a triumph where many others have failed), which makes him a a great chewy companion for the pram or baby bouncer. We (or rather Wilf) really recommend Goo. Price: £10.99 (reduced packaging) or £12.99 (gift packaging)Available from: Cloud and Cuckoo. Did I pay for it? No, it was gifted (thanks Jenna, who designed it!) 3. Leka Play MatWe're big fans of the IKEA Leka range and this mat has been a gem. It looks good, can easily be machine washed (absolutely essential when you have a refluxy baby) and is also really good value. We also bought the wooden baby gym for £20 from the same range, which, compared to other baby-entertaining apparatus on the market, takes up a lot less space! Price: £25Available from: IKEA Did I pay for it? Yep. 4. Etta Loves Muslins I love the story behind these. Etta Loves founder, Jen Fuller, said she wanted to create muslins that were 'functional, developmental and stylish' after noticing that her 4-week old little Etta was staring at the pattern on her top. So, as well as being soft and absorbent, these muslins have been designed with input from an early years visual expert, to ensure that they stimulate babies' visual and cognitive development. What that means in real terms is that baby Wilf is very often transfixed by their patterns AND they’re extra large, which is oh-so-useful when you have a sicky baby who easily saturates a small muslin in one sitting. They look amazing, too - I've been asked several times about the leopard print one when out and about (you know you're a parent when you're having a muslin chat in the Co-op). Price: muslins from £19.95. super soft bamboo sensory washcloths start at £7Available from: Etta LovesDid I pay for it? No, we gratefully accepted these as a new-baby gift and have used them loads since. 5. Shnuggle baby bathWhen I was pregnant, I saw trillions of people raving about these baths. To be honest, it was a real case of 'Instagram made me buy it' but I'm glad because it's been ace! It has a bum bump to help with Wilf's posture plus a foam backrest which is much softer against his head than the old baby bath his big brothers had, and he doesn't slip and slide around as much. Really well-designed, would definitely recommend it. Price: RRP £24.95 (have previously seen it for £19.99 when shopping around)Available from: Shnuggle (we bought ours from John Lewis but currently out of stock there)Did I pay for it? Yep. That's all for now! xx I have not being paid to write this post, the above links are not affiliate links (no commission) and I've noted whether we paid for the items ourselves or whether they were gifts. These are purely my recommendations based on what we've found helpful this time around (so far!)
Why I'll Never Regret Having Children
Last week, there appeared to be something of a furore surrounding mums who admit that they 'regret having children.’ I know this because I was asked, several times and by several different media outlets, for my commentary on the topic. Any parenting blogger will know that to be asked for your ‘commentary’ on a topic is really an invitation to pick a side and then go on the telly or radio where you will (almost certainly) be pitted against a parent on the ‘other side.’ There is nothing new about this format and I generally just ignore invites along those lines – not because I’m rude but because I don’t much fancy the idea of having a barney live on air with another mum or dad whose viewpoint is probably not that dissimilar from my own and who I’d probably get on just fine with if I met them in the pub (but ‘you make a good point actually and I’ve really enjoyed this discussion’ doesn’t make good TV). Generally, when these topics start trending online, an assumption has been made about the ‘side’ I would pick and, if I’m honest, said assumption rarely paints me in a favourable light. 'Sarah! We’re doing a debate on our drivetime show about smacking – do you fancy coming on to say you think it’s OK to smack your kids?' ... 'Hi Sarah, we’re looking for a mum who regularly drinks alcohol straight after the school run, can you get to our studio tomorrow morning?' ... 'Hi Sarah, do your kids have all their teeth or have any had to be taken out due to sugar consumption? We’d love to have you on if they’re missing a few!' ... 'Unmumsy Mum, we’re doing a feature about mums who put heroin in their kids’ Bolognese and thought you’d probably be OK with that…' (the last one is a lie, but you get the idea). To a certain extent, I understand why they contact me. If they’ve managed to find a ‘good mum’ for the opposing side (enter Ruth from stage left), they need a mum who is a bit rougher around the edges to add some balance. Producer Bob probably takes one look at my page before declaring, ‘I’ve found one! She swears, enjoys a glass of wine and relies heavily on frozen beige carbs - she’s bound to smack her kids and not brush their teeth. Let’s get her on!’ It’s mildly offensive that I am continually invited to represent the ‘bad mum’ side of any debate but I generally have far better things to do than dwell on it or reply, ‘Actually Bob, my boys’ teeth are fucking sparkly.' However, the plentiful invites I had of this nature last week ruffled my feathers because this time, the assumption had been made that I somehow regret having children. ‘We thought you might have something interesting to offer on this debate from the side of those mums who wish they hadn’t had children.’ Let’s just let that sink in for a second. Wow. I have poured my parenting heart out many times on this blog and in my books. There have been some admissions I’m not proud of (like the time I called baby Henry an arsehole then cried about calling him an arsehole), bits I’ve found it difficult to talk about (mainly all the times I’ve wobbled over feeling like I’m not cut out for the job) and a whole load of honesty about how I’ve really found the various stages of the parenting adventure. One thing I've never said is that I regret having children and that’s because it is something I have never felt. Yes, in the thick of the sleep-deprived, newborn fog when the baby wouldn’t settle and I tried to breastfeed a pillow I may have said, “We should have got a dog.” And sure, there was that afternoon when I text James to say, ‘What the hell have we created?’ after Henry had a paddy about ‘the wrong ham’ in his sandwich just moments before Jude pulled his trousers down and shat in the DVD cupboard (RIP Despicable Me 2) but never have I wished that I could turn back the clock and not have children. Even trying to imagine a sort of parallel universe where I’m not a parent is just about the saddest thing I can think of and that’s not to say I don’t understand people who decide having kids isn’t for them, I just mean it’s sad because I know now what being a parent is like. I’ve lived, breathed and (house full of boys) smelt parenthood every day for the last six years and on every one* of those days I have counted myself lucky that I am a mum. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s a bit boring (controversial statement in itself, but there we go). Sometimes it’s hilarious. Sometimes, a certain milestone or simply holding a tiny hand makes my heart sing and I mean SING with joy. Sometimes I worry that I’m cocking it all up. Sometimes I just want five minutes’ peace in the bathroom because it’s that time of the month and I’d rather not be interrogated about the ‘little mice’ and ‘Mummy’s willy’ again. Sometimes I think how nice it would be to have a duvet day and watch something that isn’t WWE or Henry Danger. Sometimes the kids do something I’m extremely proud of and I want to climb to the top of a very tall tower and shout “Those are MY kids! Mine!”Sometimes a photo on Timehop reminds me of the days when I could, if I so wished, spend all of Saturday getting ready for a night out and all of Sunday recovering from it. I may look back fondly on those days and sometimes I may even joke, ‘take me back!’ but never have I truly wished to go back there. In the alarmingly wide spectrum of feelings I have experienced since having children, regret is simply not one of them. I don’t know who I’ve written this post for, really. Perhaps it’s a more measured response to all those people who thought I would be the ideal candidate to talk about the regret of having children. Perhaps it’s for the fellow mums and dads who crave a full night’s sleep and have the odd ugly cry when they find dairylea in their best trainers, yet still wouldn’t change it for the world. Or perhaps it’s for my boys who will no doubt read this one day and think, stop blethering, Mother. Henry, Jude, Wilf – if Mummy could live her life one hundred million times over, the three of you and your dad would be in it every time. No regrets. *When I said I'd counted myself lucky on each and every parenting day over the last six years, I was, of course, excluding Legoland.
Wilf's Birth Story
It has, quite remarkably, been three months since our unit of four became a five. I have been meaning to blog our birth story ever since and in many ways, I’m surprised it has taken me this long to share what was an overwhelmingly positive experience. I suppose I’ve been a bit worried that anything written in the newborn-brain-fog wouldn’t do our story justice but I’m not sure the fog is going to lift any time soon (I can still barely string a spoken sentence together) so I’m going to do my best. As most of you will know, Wilf is our third baby. My previous two deliveries were less than ideal and, if I’m honest, had left me feeling pretty negative about labour. I won’t give you the full background on Henry and Jude’s deliveries as this could easily become Essays in the Unmumsy Births volumes 1-100 but in a nutshell, I had preeclampsia with Henry and a ‘failure to progress’ with Jude, leading to two very ‘medical’ feeling births: me on my back, bright lights, lots of bodies in the room, ALL the drugs and a total loss of control on my part – the low point being during birth two, when I went on strike at 10cm dilated, sploshing about completely naked in my waters, refusing to push and declaring that I was dying (out of sheer terror, I think – I can still remember the panic!) Wilf’s birth could not have been more different and three months later I'm still on Cloud 9 about how well it went. Shortly after I’d had Jude (who was ‘definitely going to be our last, thank you and goodnight’) I wrote that in the unlikely event that I ever had another one, I would give hypnobirthing a bash and I cannot begin to tell you how glad I am that I did. I honestly feel that the whole delivery was a testament to hypnobirthing. On the morning of 12th December, I had ‘the show’ (always makes me want to do jazz hands) and started to feel a bit funny. I had Henry’s nativity play at the local church at 10AM and by the time I was sat down listening to him singing Prickly Hay I was having light contractions every 15 minutes or so (way more intense than Braxton Hicks but I could still chat through them). Back at home, they continued in the same manner for the best part of the day (not yet enough to head to the hospital) so I did my best to chill out, watching The Holiday (love that film), drinking tea and eating biscuits. At 4PM, I attempted a nap to bank some sleep and help me relax but found I could no longer sleep through the contractions, which were around every 10 mins. At 5pm, my waters broke all over the living room floor (proper comedy waters gush like in the movies, it was everywhere). It was at this point that I had a bit of a worry as I realised, with all the excitement over things ‘kicking off’, that I hadn’t felt the baby move for a couple of hours. After phoning triage at the hospital, I was told I needed to go in just to check the baby’s heart rate and although I had hoped to relax at home for a lot longer to minimise hospital time, I needed peace of mind that he was OK, so we loaded the car with the hospital bags (yes bags, as James has his own bag with snacks and drinks to 'keep him going') and off we went. I don’t know if it was James’s driving or the sudden change of plan but during the 10 minute car journey I had three contractions and they were pretty intense! With Christmas songs on the radio, I started breathing as I’d been practicing - in for 4, out for 8 – and felt pretty calm and relaxed as we arrived. The midwives were not expecting me to be in active labour when I turned up and I think my calmness on arrival was deceiving, so we were told to wait in the general triage waiting area. This was not ideal as by this point I was having contractions every 2-3 minutes and could no longer sit down. I waddled over and told the lady on the desk that things had changed and I needed to get to a room in the birth centre ASAP (the polite way of saying ‘shit’s getting real’). We were put in an assessment room to check Wilf’s heart rate which was fine, thank God, but my blood pressure was not and it was at this point that I feared my calm birth was about the fly out the window. Given my history of preeclampsia, the rapidly increasing blood pressure was a big concern and after consultation with doctors, I was told that the recommendation was to send me to labour ward and not the birth centre as planned. I was also informed that a water birth was no longer recommended, due to an increased risk of fitting associated with the blood pressure drama. If there was a Sliding Doors moment of the labour, where everything could have changed, this was it. I remembered Siobhan (my hypnobirthing teacher)’s encouragement to ask questions about the risks and benefits of any decision (and needing to change my mind set about ‘not being allowed’ to do things). Given that I was already having contractions every two minutes, I asked if it would be at all possible to get into a pool and reassess my blood pressure from there, as I had a strong feeling the baby would be making an appearance very soon and I was terrified that laying on my back on a labour ward would set me back. Our midwife, Rosie, was brilliant, and given that my blood pressure was not yet an emergency situation (let me be clear: if it had been deemed at all dangerous, I would have waddled at speed to labour ward), she agreed to try it my way for a bit in the hope that the pool would relax me. The next two hours were everything I had hoped birth would be this time around. James put some gentle spa music on, we sprayed some relaxing room spray and I went into my own zone, focusing on breathing and, lo and behold, my blood pressure went DOWN! I had requested to have no internal examinations (as these really stressed me out in previous deliveries) so was left to my own devices, with Rosie monitoring Wilf’s heartbeat with the hand-held Doppler thingy while I was in the pool. For an hour and a half, I barely made any noise except to breathe as I'd practiced and I really made use of the visualisation techniques, particularly a hot air balloon one where I imagined the hot air balloon inflating as I felt a contraction coming on, and then floating away as it eased off. I found it really helpful to have something to focus on and I can’t even begin to tell you how different it was to Jude’s birth, where I swore, shouted and begged everyone to put me out of my misery. At around 11:25PM, I felt like things had changed and that the ‘up’ breathing I’d practiced was no longer working - like something was pushing down into my bum and I knew it was time to change to the ‘down breaths’ (I’m laughing as I type this, aware it sounds a bit wanky but IT WORKS, I promise IT REALLY WORKS!) Despite having had zero internal examinations, I just knew it was time for him to arrive and I can’t tell you how nice it was not to have people saying ‘you’re 10cm, it’s time to push, no you can’t go on strike’ like I’d had before – this time, the midwives just trusted from what they were observing that I knew what to do. After 20 minutes of bearing down into my bum using the candle-blowing-out breaths (which I had practiced when going for a poo, yes really) accompanied by a bit of cow-like mooing, Wilf’s head was out. I felt so calm, even stopping to have a chat about the colour of his hair, and shortly after with one final big poo-push the rest of him followed, just before midnight. The cord was wrapped twice around his neck which made me panic momentarily (“OMG DO SOMETHING!”) but he was absolutely fine and Rosie helped me get to him onto my chest. The feeling at that point was total euphoria. I have never been prouder of myself and after two pretty negative births I almost felt like this birth had put the others right, somehow. Wilf was 8lb 13oz – my biggest baby yet – but I’d had paracetamol and codeine only, as I just didn’t feel like I wanted anything else (I’ve sampled ALL the drugs in previous births and never enjoyed the sensation of being ‘out of it’, though I did find the epidural pretty magic with Henry). Post-birth, things very nearly got medical again when the placenta got stuck and had to be manually manipulated out by poor Rosie (not going to lie, this was basically like being fisted), but again I breathed through it and the atmosphere was not at all one of panic. After tea and toast, some skin-to-skin and Wilf’s first feed we left the hospital just a few hours later and were back at home by 5AM, meaning Henry and Jude had gone to bed like normal and woken up to find a baby brother! I know every birth is different but I am convinced that the reason this birth was so different was due to the time I’d spent with Siobhan and the resulting calmness and confidence I had in my own decisions. I’m so glad I decided not to have any internal examinations and pushed for a water birth (clearly if I had considered this a real safety concern I would have reacted differently but I was so sure the pool would help and that he would arrive soon, and he did!) and the biggest game changer of all was the breathing. The most important tool ever, I felt in control (almost) the entire time. I have had so many messages since I mentioned hypnobirthing asking if I would recommend it and I honestly can’t recommend it enough (and this goes for every type of birth - including induction and c-section - it's not all about drug-free water births). I'd say there is probably a spectrum as to how 'into' the hypnobirthing you get and I reckon I was somewhere in the middle - I never got used to calling contractions 'surges', James never once joined in with reading me any of the 'affirmations' (nor did I particularly want him to) and I would be lying if I said I didn't feel pain but bugger me, it was 100x better than I ever imagined birth could be. This comes from a sceptic - someone who was worried she might have to start chanting or sacrifice an animal under a full moon while wearing tie-dye – when in actual fact, it was just a course geared towards making every type of birth as positive as possible. I did hypnobirthing with Siobhan, founder of The Positive Birth Company, who, alongside classes, also offers a digital download pack with all the hypnobirthing resources you could need for just £35. For more information visit the website or see @thepositivebirthcompany on Instagram. I have not been paid for this post. I am sharing because I would like to give something back to Siobhan who gave me a birth experience I will remember fondly forever (and which has gone some way to drowning out the memory of the swearing and the 10cm strike).
A Grief Encounter
A few weeks ago, I received an email from a PR company inviting me to attend a special Mother’s Day event. ‘A treat for you and your mum!’ the invite read. My heart dropped into my stomach and I promptly deleted it. It’s just an email, I told myself. Deleted. Forgotten about. Only it wasn’t forgotten about. As I carried on with my day, attempting to busy myself with whatever I had been doing before I’d checked my emails, I could feel a little doom-cloud descending. It felt like the light had been turned off on my day and I was annoyed at myself for allowing a single email to switch my mood from good to grumpy. Grumpy is how grief manifests itself, for me. I have never been much of a take-myself-upstairs-to-cry-at-pictures type of person, though on a very small number of occasions that has happened. I’ve always coped far better with being in ‘a bad mood’ than I have with being in a sad mood because a bad mood means I can stomp around with people thinking I’ve simply ‘got a cob on’ and I can still function perfectly well complete with cob. A sad mood is a lot trickier to contend with. I hadn’t prepared myself for the feelings this email would stir up because it came out of the blue and I was therefore completely unable to control my mood. The bad mood pretty swiftly became a sad one and before I could stop it, my mind went there. To the place I try so hard not to let it go. I imagined what ‘a treat for me and my mum’ would look like. I imagined us getting the train to London and drinking coffee and laughing at Mum’s insistence on wearing her backpack on her front so nobody could steal her purse. I imagined linking arms on our way to a spa somewhere, excited about being pampered after having left the kids with Grandad for the day. And then came the usual crushing realisation: Mum is not here. She hasn’t been here for a very long time. In fact, this year marks the birthday where I’ll have spent more years without her in my life than I spent with her in it. I have lived more than half of my life feeling like something is missing and in many ways, becoming a mum has only made that void feel bigger. The birth of each of my babies has been tinged with an unshakeable sadness that I will never be able to hand them over for a cuddle with their Nanny Debbie. They will never know her and she will never know them. The sadness of that thought has been so intense at times that I have felt a physical pain in my chest; the true meaning of heartbreak. Grief never ends. There is never a line drawn or a feeling of being ‘over it.’ You will overhear people say, ‘life goes on’ but you will know that your life will never go on in quite the same way again. Instead, you will make a new life and that new life can be happy and fulfilled and wonderful but it’s still more than possible that you will find yourself alone in your kitchen, fifteen years later, reading an email and having a little cry over the version of your life that you had to say goodbye to. I didn’t reply to the email, in the end, nor did I reply to the chase-up email I received which asked if I’d had a chance to ask my mum if she fancied a Mother’s Day treat yet. I didn’t want to make the sender feel bad by responding, 'My mum's dead, actually. Regards.' She was just doing her job. It sounded like a lovely event. What I did want, more than anything, was to pick up the phone to my mum and ask her if she fancied popping round. To talk about something trivial, like whether she thought it would be good drying weather at the weekend or if she’d caught up with Tuesday’s The Chase yet, as a single player had beaten The Dark Destroyer in the final chase. I wanted to ask if she had any ideas for World Book Day costumes and then I wanted to say, ‘Love you!’ before I told her I would see her soon. Normal stuff. Mum stuff. Bloody lovely stuff. So no, I didn't reply. I did what I have been doing for the last five years whenever things have felt a bit much and I wrote a blog instead. Because every time I do, I reach people who have been feeling the same. There are so many people who will find the upcoming conversations around Mother's Day hard for a wide variety of reasons, of which loss is just one. If that's you, this one's for you. xx
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?"
Cravings, Cleaning and Birth Plans - 33 Week Update
I realise I have been neglecting this blog recently and although there are no hard and fast rules about how often you have to blog to legitimately still call yourself a blogger, I’m pretty certain the eleven week gap since my last post puts me in the Shittiest Blogger Ever danger zone. The truth is, despite having greatly missed the typing and sharing of blog posts (undoubtedly my ‘happy place’, particularly when coupled with a hot chocolate and my dressing-gown), I’ve been at a bit of a loss as to what to say. Should I be providing something by way of an update? Does anybody actually care? But then this evening, as I found myself lining up my cleaning products in an orderly manner after having sprayed today’s favourite cleaner on an already spotless surface (just so I could rub it in with a sponge and sniff it), I realised that all of a sudden I am feeling so very pregnant - proper pregnanty (not a word, but it should be) - and that not recording this stage of the third baby adventure would be stranger than doing so, somehow. I can only apologise in advance if you’re not much interested in hearing about my obsession with all things anti-bacterial, or the trouble I’ve been having sleeping, or the crisis conversations I’ve been having with my husband over the state of things down there, but with just 7 weeks or so to go until D-day (arghhhh!), pregnancy has well and truly taken over. I know many of you are already aware that I haven’t been sleeping very well for the last couple of months (I'm wide awake between midnight and 4am, sometimes longer) and I can’t really be arsed to further dwell on it here for two reasons: 1) I’m really fucking bored of saying ‘Nope, still not sleeping!’ and 2) I have tried pretty much everything (reflexology is on this week’s hit list) and I genuinely fear that if one more person suggests Lush sleepy cream, some kind of audio download or an increase in my magnesium intake I might not be able to stop myself from spraying them in the eye with my expensive relaxing pillow spray. You have all been so, so helpful (thank you!) but if it’s legal, I’ve already tried it. Illegal ideas welcome (just kidding, sort of). There are a great many other pregnancy quirks that have materialised since I last blogged and the biggest two - not my boobs, though they are mahooosive - have been an obsession with cleaning and a love of ice cubes, both of which are repeat behaviours from previous pregnancies. I was told after the ice-cube crunching habit last time that I might have been suffering from an iron deficiency but I’ve just had all that stuff checked and we’re all good, so it’s not that. Whatever it is that is driving me to chomp frozen water it’s really quite bizarre and even as I type this, I am thinking ahead to my next glass where I will add one whole tray of cubes to a third of a glass of water (I’m not really that fussed about the water to be honest but it does lubricate the cubes and stop them from getting stuck to my tongue. I know how to treat myself). When it comes to the cleaning, I am mainly spraying cleaning products and then scrubbing surfaces (just the thought of spraying and scrubbing with certain products instantly makes me feel calm) but there are also other things I feel compelled to do, like cleaning the shower tiles with an old toothbrush, disinfecting all the door handles in the house and using the tiny hoover attachment to get into the hard-to-reach room edges. I wrote in my first book that the Barry Scott adverts (‘Bang! And the dirt is gone!’) had practically become a turn-on at one point and this pregnancy is much the same. Footage of cleaning is like porn. Physically, I’m feeling pretty good, though the waddle has set in now. I don’t weigh myself (not ever – we don’t have scales) but I can see that the ‘baby weight’ has spread to unexpected places like my neck, back and chins. In fact, everything has got bigger and I mean everything (even bigger than at the last update). Last week, after a shaving session in the shower, where I was trying to address the Chewbacca state of body hair, I was so alarmed by the swollen appearance of things down below that I ran into the bedroom, dropped the towel and declared, ‘My vagina is a monster!’ to a startled James who then had to try to say all the right things when I begged him to have a look at it. He went with: "It looks fine, babe! If a little puffy. It’s certainly not hideous." IT’S CERTAINLY NOT HIDEOUS?! That's a relief, then. All of the above pales into insignificance beside our little boy bump himself, of course, who we had the pleasure of seeing on the screen for a third time this week at our scan to check the progress/update of the low-lying placenta. The good news is the placenta has indeed moved (hurrah!) and the cervix is no longer obstructed. The bad news is that he is now breech, though I have it on good authority that seven weeks is plenty of time for him to assume the head-first position (Jude turned at 36 weeks) so I am not allowing that to worry me. Now that I’m back to Plan A of the lady-garden slide, and noting that my second labour was not the best experience (by ‘not the best’ I mean I completely lost my shit, panicked, shouted a lot and subsequently don’t really allow myself to think about it) I’ve decided I’m going to have a bash at hypnobirthing this time, with my first session on Wednesday. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? I’ll be heading into hospital for the birth again (I just feel safest there) and I am still very much hoping that I won’t miss Christmas dinner, though obviously more than anything I just want him to arrive safely … any other day though, buddy, ANY other day (I am having guilty pangs in advance about the possibility of missing Christmas with Henry and Jude) And that’s pretty much it by way of an update! I think it’s unlikely that I will do another pregnancy-specific blog before he’s here, but I have got a couple of other half-written posts in my drafts which if I can get my larger-than-usual arse in gear I will finish and publish soon. In the meantime, I will get back to my cleaning and ice-crunching and try my very best to stay calm about the Megafanny. xx