Letter to my (unconceived) unborn second child

Hello! It’s your Mother here.

People have been asking for months (and months and months) now: ‘do you want another?’ like you and LJ are cups of tea and they’re wondering if they should put the kettle on.

Apart from balking at the assumption that ‘another’ will be easy to come by I haven’t really known how to answer this question and I think you need to know why.
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Where’s my inner crafty mum?

A few months ago I wrote a post about an Easter Egg Hunt and I how I channelled my inner keen activity mum to deliver said hunt. Well, not only did she turn up late and was pretty rubbish, but she did not stick around either. LJ is nearly two and doesn’t attend nursery, I fear he may be missing out on vital activities to help develop the parts of his brain that aren’t about throwing balls and beeping when walking backwards. Continue reading

If parenting was a driving test…

If parenting was a driving test, today I would have failed. It’s just been one of those days

I let Mr Tumble babysit LJ while I had a showerMinor Fault
Not amazing parenting so it goes on the list, but I do this pretty much everyday – it works really well for me as a post playtime, pre facing the world interlude. He’s in the bedroom and I’m in the ensuite (not Mr Tumble, LJ. If Mr Tumble were in my bedroom that would be weird. And disturbing.).

I forgot to take LJ’s shoes out with usMajor Fault
It’s fair to say I don’t have an amazing track record of packing the right stuff for LJ when going out. I’ve been quite creative in my time with piecing together clothes for him while out and about but I am proud to say I have never forgotten his shoes. Until today.
We went to the seaside. You are forgiven for thinking that this is a great place not to have shoes. It was a pebble beach. And LJ is not a child that likes the feel of things on his feet.  My back and I heard A LOT of ‘Mummy….UP’ today.

He carried a door handle around with him ALL dayMinor Fault
I don’t have a massive problem with this but it was big and heavy, and got hot in the sun. I’m no expert, but even I can see that this is not an entirely age appropriate toy for an under-two. Continue reading

Pirates and Princesses

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My niece and nephew last week participated in their nursery’s Pirates and Princesses day. Cue extremely cute picture of both of them together in their costumes. Ahhhhh! And can you guess who was the pirate and who was the princess? Of course you can…boy pirate and girl princess.

I’m not having a go at my sister for her choice of outfits, I imagine most of us would do the same, conforming wins! And I would not want to be the mother that forces her little boy (yearning to be the BEST pirate ever) into a princess dress to make a point. I have a little boy who LOVES cars, diggers and bulldozers, and probably, although I haven’t yet tested the theory, pirates! Continue reading

Lost in…Bedtime Rhymes

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This is currently LJ’s absolute favourite bedtime and naptime book. Others may come and go; others may complement it, but this one has remained a constant for as long as he has been old enough to make his preferences known.

Bedtime Rhymes is a small, thin book of 23 poems compiled by Audrey Daly and wonderfully illustrated by James Hodgson. It’s not, as far as I know, in print anymore being an old style Ladybird book and first published in 1977. But you can still find it to purchase and so, hurrah! We have it. Continue reading

Just shut the door and walk away…

There are three people in my life who consistently ‘offer’ me annoying and unwelcome advice and opinions. I don’t know these people brilliantly, they don’t know me that well. They certainly don’t know LJ so basically I wish they would just LEAVE ME ALONE!

Here are a few of the gems they have passed on to me and what, on a ranty day, I wish I could say in return (rather than what I do say which is generally mmm, oh right. Anyway funny about that freak rainstorm/hailstorm/snowstorm/sandstorm the other week…oh look at the time, must go byeeee’).
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The Liebster Award

Liebster-award

The Liebster Award is (another) lovely thing about the blogging community. It is a great way of getting to know other bloggers and their blogs. I was nominated by Katie at Growing up Katertot. If you haven’t been over to her blog yet, GO! It is much prettier and nicer than mine and full of lovely things. Her Weekly Words of Inspiration is such a positive idea and really lovely to read. I’m also looking forward to reading more of her book reviews and stealing her craft and recipe ideas!

I have taken a little while to post this and in the meantime was also nominated by Catherine at Pushing the Moon. Great name yes? Go there too! I particularly like her ‘explore‘ category where she takes us out and about with her family. Her children have an indoor bouncy castle (amazing!) and on her ‘about’ page she expresses an admirable commitment to drinking copious amounts of wine. I can’t wait to get reading more of her blog.

So if you choose to accept The Liebster Award, the rules are simple:
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My 10 tips for a better birth experience – Birth Thoughts Part II

1. Beware the unsolicited advice…
Ha, like this post! Nobody knows you like you know yourself and other people’s advice comes from their own unique experiences. Exactly like me writing this…I’m only writing it because of the specific experience I had and because of who I am. If the advice resonates with you then great, if not don’t worry about it.

When I was pregnant unsolicited birth advice was just the worst! So do you want my advice? If a sentence from a stranger starts with ‘do you want my advice?’ Get in quick, say no and run for the hills as fast as your bumpy body will let you.

Are you still there? If you haven’t gone, here are the rest of my suggestions:

2. Knowledge is power/ignorance is bliss
Arm yourself with the amount of knowledge you feel comfortable with. For some that’s none. For others it’s everything.

For me it’s everything. I started with these books:

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And settled on this one which fast became my birth bible:

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3. Have expectations of your birth
Contrary to a lot of advice I think you should allow yourself in pregnancy to expect your birth to be a certain way. You have a plan, you have hopes and aspirations for your birth, you have a desired location. I think that’s all great. As long as you can reconcile yourself to the fact that things may change I can’t see why you wouldn’t want to plan.

I also think you should have certain expectations about the treatment you will receive. Most midwives are wonderful people and I would expect me and my baby to be treated pretty wonderfully by them.

4. Believe in your labour brain 
Question decisions that others present to you all the way through your pregnancy and, particularly during labour. If the situation isn’t an emergency there may be other paths that can be explored. Professionals have the most amazing medical skill and knowledge but can make a fairly good consultant when it comes to your own body. Your birthing partners are crucial in achieving this. They can advocate for you and be the fuel for your labour brain.

One of the most vivid memories of my birth experience was a 4am conference on the labour ward. I’d been in labour since 3am the night before and was pretty exhausted. I’d just left my planned home birth at home and had arrived in hospital feeling a bit sad with contractions slowing. Upon arrival and assessment my husband, my independent midwife and I were presented with the plan: an Oxytocin drip to get contractions going again and a strong pain relief administered by a drip that may simulate drunkenness.

A perfectly reasonable plan, please don’t get me wrong but for me it didn’t sound good. I don’t like feeling drunk and I was also exhausted (did I mention that!?) so managing to get through too many more contractions, particularly induced ones, didn’t feel very promising. With our midwife as our fuel and advocate we asked the hospital midwife about probability of intervention with this route and if there were any alternatives. She was surprised, but gave an honest answer that allowed us to properly assess the probable outcome for me. Suffice to say we laid out an alternative plan that was agreed and actioned.

I strongly believe that this was a defining moment for me in how I now feel about my birth. Add funnily enough the alternative path was something I absolutely didn’t want and was sure I would only have as a total last resort BUT in the circumstances it was the best option and in that moment I was able to make my peace with it because ultimately I chose it.

So if the situation allows, be an active participant in discussions. You may be in pain, you may be exhausted, you may have no concept of time but, contrary to common myth, you don’t lose your mind.

5. Birth afterthoughts services
Wait at least six weeks but, wherever you give birth, consider taking advantage of the birth afterthoughts service at your local hospital…even if just a little bit of you wants to. Do it at any point in the months and years following your birth experience. Maybe the right time for you would be a couple of months after birth or maybe it would be when you are thinking about, or when you are pregnant with, a next child.

If you do it but still have questions or your feelings about your birth experience change do it again. You can make return visits at my local hospital and there’s no time limit, so check with yours if you are not sure. It may not provide all the answers you are looking for, but it can help you understand what happened in your birth experience and why.

6. Post birth analysis with friends and family
The day of your child’s birth makes a mother and a father. For many men the experience of seeing their partner give birth can be deeply moving. If they are with you post birth, don’t be afraid to revisit the experience together. You may find things he needs to get straight, or you may find that his pride in you is one of the best feelings in the world.

Friends (although see point 7!) can also make wonderful sounding boards, particularly other mothers. It’s not insignificant that new mothers gravitate to other new mothers. Helping each other through the early months and listening to another’s birth story without judgement can be as therapeutic as sharing your own.

7. Keep mum
It feels good to share your story but think about who you share it with. My advice is to not tell pregnant women about your birth unless they specifically ask and even then assess the situation and edit appropriately. When I was pregnant it felt like a bit of a lose – lose with other peoples experiences. If they’d had a wonderful one I felt under pressure and stressed that I might not. If they’d had a horror story I felt terrible for them and my fear and anxiety levels went through the roof.

8. It IS a big deal.
Don’t belittle or underestimate the experience for you. Yes it’s normal, yes every mother has gone through it it some way or another but for many many women it is physically, hormonally and emotionally complex. Birth and early motherhood can profoundly impact a woman. For many it’s the moment their life changes.

9. Don’t put expectations on yourself
Contrary to society myths NOBODY knows how they are going to feel upon being presented with their baby. Maybe you will fall in love at first sight, maybe your baby will take to the breast or the bottle happily, maybe you will spend your days postpartum lying in a big fluffy white bed surrounded by flowers and chocolate and sunlight…

Or maybe you won’t. Give yourself time to fall in love. Don’t feel guilty if you feel shocked, sad, tired, anxious. Nobody is a perfect mother but most mothers are perfect for their little ones. Having said all that, if at all possible find that aforementioned bed with chocolates and flowers.

10. Take action
Do something positive if you feel you need to or if you want to. Start a blog, reconnect with family, volunteer. You never know where it might take you.

For me breastfeeding was a difficult and emotional experience, particularly in the days following the birth in the hospital where I felt hugely anxious, exhausted and sad (because I wasn’t feeling what I thought I was supposed to feel, see point 9!). I recently trained as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter with the NCT and where it has taken me is back to the maternity ward where I spent those very unhappy first few days after giving birth. Going back in this positive role has had a profound effect on me and helped me overcome a few big bits of guilt and sadness that I’ve been carrying around for almost two years.

 

So there you have it my thoughts on claiming and reclaiming your birth experience. If you have any more, please do share them. I may consider doing it all again at some point so would love all the tips I can get!

MaternityMondays

Balls

Ok, not a very profound title but my life is FULL of balls. And by life I mean house and by balls I mean balls. A day can start and end with balls, have a peek at A Day in the Life for an unpromising golf ball wakeup.

So here are the places where just TODAY I have found balls of some sort.

1. Ball-pit balls in the ball box (hurrah!)

2. Golf ball on the stairs (danger)

3. Cricket ball in the bag tucked away at the back of wardrobe that I keep my birthing books in (actually made me wonder if I used it in some way during pregnancy…??)

4. Golf ball by the filing cabinet (filed it)

5. Golf ball in my shoe (put it in Andrew’s shoe)

6. Two golf balls in my handbag (had no answer for this, they are still there)

7. Cricket ball and ball pit ball in LJ’s going out bag (visions of LJ hurtling cricket ball at fellow toddler. Removed and replaced with second ball-pit ball)

8. Cricket ball in the bit under the kitchen surface where I keep trays and chopping boards (ok, I think I remember putting it there. Made LJ crawl in and get it)

9. Golf ball in the tissue box (leave it there, seems reasonable)

10. Rounders ball by the kettle (nearly have a ankle turning tea-based incident but don’t, so move on)

11. Ping-pong ball on the kitchen sofa (LJ’s favourite, ahh)

12. Cricket ball in the sellotape in the stationary cupboard (a perfect fit)

13. Three juggling balls in the cutlery drawer (there is no point in me juggling with just two)

13. Four red cricket balls in my cocktail glasses (because that’s where they live. Obviously)

Is this normal??? Oh balls, I have no idea.

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The Dad Network

We should all be feminists!

Some of you may have visions of a glamorous sporting career for my husband and buckets of money. Well I’d better put things straight – this is emphatically not the case. Of course he is lucky enough to do what he loves for a decent living but then SO WAS I (before I stopped working). The differences are that my world of working in the arts paid less, didn’t attract the sort of excitement that Andrew’s job has around it, didn’t define me and, fortunately, didn’t have the explicit gender positioning that seems to be expected any time a male deigns to move their limbs in a vaguely active fashion and get paid for it.

Andrew plays cricket, so also not exactly an area that most people think of as having a WAG culture, and honestly at the moment there isn’t much of one. But there has been in recent years and I have raged against it. In my younger days I declared myself an anti-WAG and reconfirmed myself as a feminist. One that is incredibly proud of her best friend, Andrew, for his talent, but one that does not want to (only) sit in the Wives & Girlfriends room.

So this part of my site (if I can work out how to do it!!)…will be my space for musing about the impact of sport as a career on our lives, my thoughts about gender equality and how bringing up my son reminds me that ‘we should all be feminists’…

“Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists