Tuesday, 14 February 2017

For my friends, on Valentine's day

For as long as I can remember, I have spent Valentine's Day with friends, who, like me don't 'do' Valentine's Day. It's ironic I know, celebrating to prove that we don't celebrate something. But, it's what we do and it's become a tradition. It was interrupted three years ago because Scott & I completed on our house, so I was kinda obligated to spend the night with him cleaning out cupboards and eating takeaway on the floor. Other than that, it's always me and the girls.

Apart from this year.

To my lovely friends, whom I don't see that much anymore; I miss you. I'm still here, I just have this other love in my life now. He's not even 70cm tall, weighs less than 17lbs, but he's taken over my world, my heart, my thoughts.

My evenings are not like they used to be, I don't have the flexibility to pop out or even have people pop round in the same way...evenings are tricky, Harry has a certain dislike for sleep. It's not particularly enjoyable for me and Scott, so you'd enjoy it even less. It takes team work, determination, patience, frequent visits up and down the stairs, unfinished cups of tea, unfinished conversations. But, if you feel like giving it a try one evening, I'm here...I'm always here you see; I can count the number of times in the last five months I have been out in the evening. Five. So if you do feel like hunkering down on the sofa and seeing me every few minutes, or bearing with me while I listen out for his cries, panicking if he does choose to sleep, I'm here.

After the initial interest when Harry was born, it's a sad truth that the visits slow down. Seeing a five month old who doesn't particularly like strangers is not as appealing as the squidgy new born who is happy to be cuddled by anyone with a heartbeat. I understand though. He's the love of my life, and at times I could happily put him on EBay...free postage! My whole day is about Harry, so yep, that means your WhatsApp will be spammed with photos of him! There's just not a lot else to show you...

But, I'm still here, I'm still me. I do remember (just) how to stop talking in sing song voices and I do know there are other songs in the world other than the wheels on the bus, I still love Champagne, I just can't drink it by the bottle like I used to because of breastfeeding and hangovers are just unbearable to even think about. I still love chocolate, popcorn, crap movies and like to pretend I will run 5k again one day. I still like to bore people with stories (good and bad) about being a step-parent, I like to boast when I hit 10,000 steps and I still like to indulge in a Twiathlon (it just takes a few weeks rather than hours due to the constant interruptions). I can still eat a large pizza in one sitting and no, I haven't learned to cook. I'm still interested in you, your work, your day, your family.

It's just that I also have this gorgeous, gummy, dribbly, smelly little boy in my life now. He's all consuming and I switch from tears of pure joy to tears of sadness for my old life. The thing is, one day he will need me a little less...one day I'll feed him for the last time, one day he'll go off to bed without so much as a glance back at me, one day he'll be out in the evenings leaving me alone with all the hot cups of tea I can manage. Until then, he needs me.

Just the other day I went for a belated birthday afternoon tea, it was wonderful, but then my Mum called as Harry had decided he no longer wanted to take expressed milk from a bottle. He wouldn't feed. We had to rush back....the next day Scott & I had to cancel our plans as we couldn't risk it happening again. I've never been so needed. It's stressful, can feel a little restrictive, but also makes me feel kinda powerful and it's nice to be needed in that way.

So it seems I'm breaking all the rules now. I'm putting a guy first before my friends, I'm cancelling plans, I'm a little rubbish at keeping in touch. It seems I'm going to have to rewrite the rules. Will you bear with me? Will you still be there to watch the crap movies that Scott refuses to watch with me? When I'm ready, will you post drunken Facebook updates with me once more?

When Harry needs me just a little less, will you be my Valentine once again? 

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Your old life has gone.

In my role as an HR Manager, I've previously been involved with arranging a programme to assist employees approaching retirement. We would organise seminars, networking events and other such meetings to help them deal with the practical and psychological side of retirement.

The reason for this; retiring is a huge change of lifestyle, it changes your identity, who you socialise with, the reason you get up in the morning, what you talk about over dinner. It changes you. Many companies will be familiar with the scenario where someone retires, then maybe three months later register as a casual worker or returns to work in some capacity because they just didn't know what to do with themselves. Work, so very often, defines us.

What's this got to do with being Just Another Mummy? Well, it's occurred to me how ill prepared I was for having a baby, and how, in my opinion, our antenatal care, is completely misdirected.

Like most expectant mums, I signed up for a host of email newsletters and each week as I saw what fruit my baby resembled, I was also bombarded with information and advice on how to choose a cot, how to choose a name, how to create the perfect Facebook announcement. Yes, really, that's the kind of thing we are trying to help expectant parents with. In case you're in that camp, by the way, buying a cot is easy...you see how much room you have and how much money you have and there you have your cot.

Choosing what change bag you have, what you pack in your hospital bag, doing hypnobirthing...honestly, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but none of it matters. We are so obsessed with material goods, preparing for birth, paying people money to prepare us for birth, and discussing pain relief, that we completely seem to miss the point. None of this is going to help you when baby is actually here.

People thought I was joking, or being arrogant, when I said I wasn't worried about the birth. My perspective was that the baby was coming out one way or another, and at some point, it would end. I always said it was what happened next that worried me, because, you know, the baby is here forever. Apparently, choosing the perfect colour coordinating nursery, throwing a fabulous baby shower or buying a travel system that costs about the same as going travelling for three months was all I needed to 'be ready for baby'.




Once Harry arrived, my Mum summed it up perfectly. Your old life has gone.

People who retire find that the emotions of retirement trigger questions about purpose, it changes the relationship with their partner, can even seem like it's a whole new relationship. People search for activities that give them a sense of satisfaction. Employers are starting to assist employees with a phased retirement, to help give them an opportunity to adjust, to say goodbye to their old life and welcome the new in a gentle way. So, if we can recognise this in retirees, why not with expectant parents? We don't just focus on the day the retiree leaves the office, or spam them with ideas for the perfect retirement party theme, we focus on the after part. What happens next. What their new life will be like.

Of course you don't know. No one knows. We all cope differently and all babies are different. I just wish there was more focus on talking about how as a new Mum you have to adjust to your new identity, you have to find things to do all day (apart from the obvious demands from your baby), you have to adjust to changing relationships, not all in a bad way, but everything is different. You don't use your brain in the same way, you have all this dead time, you spend more time in the house than before, you spend more time on your own than you might be used to. People talk to you about different things, people may only be interested in you because of your baby. It's just all so different.

Your old life has gone. Your clothes are different. You can't justify buying those gorgeous grey sling backs...they're not going to help at Buggy Fit are they? You're a Mum now, you can't just pop out quickly and do something, you can't make plans without checking on babysitters, you can't be bothered to change your sick covered top because it just means more washing for you to do. You have to cancel plans because you've not slept for three nights/baby is poorly/cluster feeding/refusing to be more than three centimetres away from your face.

Maybe I was unlucky, but I don't recall any of this being covered in any antenatal sessions I attended. We discussed pain relief, what's the perfect coming home outfit for baby, what to wear to give birth in, how many maternity pads you might need and what size nappies to buy. There was nothing about preparing you to say goodbye to the life you have known for so long, nothing about welcoming and adjusting to a whole new life. Nothing about how to keep your brain from going to mush.

When I look at the symptoms for postnatal depression, they don't fit how I feel. I don't think I could love being Harry's Mum anymore than I do, I don't think I could have bonded with this squidgy, giggling little boy any better or feel any happier every time we play, cuddle, feed or giggle our way through a nappy change. I think I'm a pretty good Mum, if I'm allowed to say that, and I look forward to waking up every morning and watching how he stretches and slowly wakes up before beaming at me and laughing his way through another rendition of row row your boat.

It's pure happiness that I didn't know existed. Yet it's contrasted with this feeling of sadness. Maybe, it's a feeling of loss, as my Mum rightly said, my old life has gone. Maybe I've not yet accepted that I have to say goodbye. I'll just head over to Pinterest to find the perfect 'goodbye old life' Facebook announcement...

Thursday, 2 February 2017

It's been a bad week....

Harry's superhero power is never failing to make me smile.

It's been a tough week. Unexpectedly tough. All because of the weather.

I didn't realise until this week how much I have been using walking as a, coping mechanism, I guess I could call it. I try and get out for a walk with Harry every day, it's good for my physical fitness and appearance, takes a chunk out of an otherwise long day, gives me something to do, helps me think, gives me a break from my own voice as he generally sleeps and I believe it's good for him to get as much fresh air and day light as possible.

I've been doing things like walking to Tesco (30 minute walk each way) to buy dinner for that night, or even just milk. There are about 5 other shops an awful lot closer, and I could drive, but to take a good walk that gets my heart rate up, makes me feel like I'm exercising at a time when gym visits or Pilates on a regular basis is not really an option, and eats up nearly two hours once you've factored in getting Harry in and out of the pushchair, makes it the better option.

Life used to be about doing things quickly....I'll go grab dinner quickly, I'll pick up milk quickly on my way home, I'll go to the shop where I can get all five things done at once...I'm sure you're familiar with these conversations with your partners! Now, though, it's all about how can I make things take longer, how can I walk farther, make an activity out of, well, nothing really.

Time has taken on a completely new, upside down, unrecognisable form in my life. I have far less time than I would like, yet I have too much of it and am trying to find ways to fill it. Such a complete contradiction every, single day.

Walking was a way of coping, filling the time, ticking things off my to-do list, and this week the weather has been miserable and I've not been able to get out. I've had to work even harder to find things to do and ways to fill the day. I won't lie, this has consisted of quite a lot of tears and maybe one or more bags of the mixed chocolate buttons (mmm, milk and white Cadbury's buttons together in one bag...delish!!) that are on offer in Tesco. Thankfully, during my walking trips to Tesco I had foresight to stock up!

I've tried to prevent such a week happening again, and have booked us on to additional classes over the coming weeks so we have something on each day, although I know deep down this isn't the answer. Harry, of course, never fails to make me smile and kinda make it all okay. But, if you have any other ideas for filling the gap when walking isn't an option, please feel free to comment :o)

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Harry: my baby, not an inconvenience x

"Say what! You mean I'm meant to have a schedule already..."

Harry loves to bite his hands, my hands, my shoulder, sometimes his teething rings but mainly body parts. It's part of his daily routine. Along with feeding, sleeping, playing with Donald the Dragon, Kevin the Koala and the sensory basket. 

When people (strangers...usually in the supermarket, baby groups or baby weigh ins) ask me if Harry is into a routine, I reply with fairly vague statements about playing on the rainforest play mat, teddy bear mat and sensory basket, Pilates on Wednesdays, bath time with Daddy, baby massage when we remember, reading that's not my hamster/tiger/snowman....and something about going to be around 10pm and waking several times before we get up about 8am. (**cough**10am**cough**). 

Not quite satisfied with my response about how my little time zapper spends his day, they'll delight me with a minute by minute account of their little one's 'routine', which of course involves 'sleeping through', while they get to spend their evening in exactly the same way as pre-baby and the odd war story about when they had to get up for their little darling twice, yes, twice one night...! The horror!

I don't mean to offend. This isn't intended to start a Facebook tit-for-tat on parenting styles, but what has struck me is what appears to be the incorrect use of the word routine when it comes to babies, the obsession with sleep, subjective views on sleeping through and the pressure this puts on parents. 

Routine can be defined as "a sequence of actions regularly followed". 

Schedule, however, can be defined as "a plan for carrying out a process or procedure, giving lists of intended events and times".

When people ask about a baby's routine, are they actually asking for details of their sleep schedule? Why don't they use the word schedule? For me, schedule sounds harsher, stricter, something that older children and adults have. 

I think about my step-daughter's ice skating and she has a schedule of training; it's determined by the coaches, fixed, same each week, requires discipline and promptness. Her routines, however, while still demanding, are varied, have flow, beauty, go to music, change depending on individual ability and context, allow for personal development and growth. The schedule places demands on us as parents to get her there on time for example, the routine is for her to enjoy and embrace and make her own. 

Maybe it's just semantics, maybe I'm nit picking at the use of the English language. And maybe I'm a new mum surrounded by pressures and expectations, surviving on not quite enough sleep and feeling as though I should have a schedule in place by now; after all, if that's what everyone is asking about and interested in, surely I'm doing something wrong by not having one? 

No one asks about what Harry enjoys, what makes him smile or giggle, what toys he engages with, is he ticklish....no, it's all about his sleep schedule. It's lovely when people ask out of concern for me as a Mum, checking in whether I'm getting enough sleep, but mostly it just makes me feel crap. 

No, he doesn't sleep through every night, yes the four month sleep regression is a real thing, yes I wake several times a night to comfort or feed him, my neck is stiff from sleeping in a not quite upright but just enough to reach him position. No he doesn't have a bath at the same time every night...life just doesn't quite work like that with, well, life to get on with. I can't remember the last time Scott & I watched a movie at home together, or I had a dinner not interrupted with Kevin the Koala or froggy thrown at my plate 37 times. 

Sleeping through according to this link (https://www.llli.org/nb/nbjanfeb03p4.html)  and many others agree, is 5 hours. Harry frequently will achieve that but am I the only one who gets the impression five hours doesn't satisfy the chatty mum at baby group? If I say that he maybe slept from 7-12 and then fed a couple of times they smile sadly for me and start with all sorts of helpful advice to try and achieve this arbitrary utopia of 12 hours straight. 

Despite the look of pity (judgement?) from people, despite feeling pressured to do things differently, you know what, I really don't mind. I didn't have a baby for life to carry on as normal, if I wanted 10 or the hallowed 12 hours interrupted sleep forever I wouldn't have had a baby. 

I love my nighttime cuddles with him, I love hearing his snuffly breaths as he calms down in my arms, I love seeing Scott bounce him around singing random lyrics at 4am. I'm tired, of course I am, sometimes I don't quite have the energy for another round of wheels on the bus and sometimes I go for long walks just to get him to sleep and give me a little rest from my own voice. But, Harry isn't an inconvenience to me, he isn't a problem to be solved or fixed. He's a tiny, new, human being. He's my baby. And hey, motherhood is the reason under eye concealer was invented, right?? 

Harry has a lifetime of schedules and times to stick to, for now, our little routines and loose schedule of baby groups is just perfect for us. And I'd rather see him smile at me as I pick him up for the umpteenth time in the evening than watch a movie that will still be around when Harry no longer needs me at night time.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Breastfeeding. By Sophie and Harry. For a good friend and her bump xx

I've had the privilege of breastfeeding Harry for 18 weeks today. A good friend who is expecting asked me for some advice on breastfeeding and I just couldn't put anything quick together. Blog writing has helped me in so many ways it was the natural option to get down some thoughts on breastfeeding too. I guess this is a mixture of advice, thoughts and reflections. It's a bit of an epic and more specific than other blogs I've written so may not be for you! If you get as far as the end...well done, and thank you!

Breastfeeding conversation inevitably seems to end up in a debate about breast milk or formula. It's a hot topic. This blog is not intended to generate any debate; it's just my experience, which has been overwhelmingly positive, I know that not all mums have had the same experience and I mean no offence. It may be useful to you, it may not, but either way thanks for stopping by 😊

When I was pregnant I was asked often how I would feed my baby. At the time I had unknowingly subscribed to the fed is best philosophy and would reply that I would try and would like to if I "could". I had no idea that only 2% of woman could not breastfeed for medical reasons. That means that I was far more likely to fall into the 98% of women who had the ABILITY to breastfeed. 

TIP ONE: Do some research!

Pretty quickly though I realised that ability was only half the battle. I have the ability to become an Olympic athlete, what I don't have is the desire, determination, fondness for high protein diets or winter training. 

Breastfeeding requires a certain mind set. Why? Because it's tough. Yes it's natural, yes it's how we are meant to feed our babies but it's tough. Childbirth is natural but hey we all know that's no walk in the park either. Natural doesn't equal easy. 

It's not something you or your baby can prepare or practice for. There's no dress rehearsal. No exam. Baby comes out, roots around (possibly the most amazing thing I've ever experienced by the way) and there you are looking at this tiny human, minutes old, hoping they know what they're doing because quite frankly you've not got a clue. 

In hindsight we shouldn't have been discharged when we were. Only one midwife was able to get Harry to feed, when Scott had been sent home me and Harry fumbled around and I have no idea if he fed or not if I'm honest. No one checked before sending us home. 

TIP TWO; do not let a midwife force baby on to latch and then say voila! Make sure YOU can get your baby to latch. 

When describing how tough I was finding it to a friend they said "oh but I thought it was all natural and instinctive". Aside from wanting to squirt them in the eye with my painful, engorged breasts, I explained how the instinct to feed and be fed is all natural but the technique takes time and practice. 

For about four days Harry just wouldn't latch, or he'd do it once and then not again for the whole day. I can remember expressing colostrum into a tiny pot and feeding it to him via syringe that Scott had had to frantically go and buy. No one told us about this possible event and it was certainly not covered in ante natal classes. 

TIP THREE; buy syringes! 

So, there you are, tired, physically exhausted, trying to remember your pelvic floor exercises, greeting visitors and pretending it's okay for them to stay for another cuppa and your baby will not feed. It didn't matter how many times I read about 'nose to nipple', we just couldn't seem to do it, it took forever to get him on and get some milk into him and the whole time the poor little thing is crying.  You could just pop out and buy formula and this whole thing would be okay. Here comes the mind set; you've got to really want to breastfeed your baby to get through these times. We did with a little help from the Internet and unwavering support from Scott.

Thank heavens for Amazon Prime; we ordered nipple shields as we suddenly remembered the midwife at the hospital recommending them. And. Thank the breastfeeding gods he fed!!! He fed!!! The pain went (ah I hadn't mentioned that bit had I...?!) and he fed!!!! 

Despite the midwife at the hospital recommending them, we were then subject to harsh and unhelpful criticism from the community midwife and health visiting team. Without any evidence based research or suggestions of how to wean off the shields they made me feel so crappy. Like a failure. An idiot. They made me anxious and obsessed with coming off the shields. I really hate the way they made me feel at time when I needed support and help. And I most definitely did not need another yellow "off to the best start" booklet. 

TIP FOUR; Don't expect too much from your health team. Sadly my experience was not great. I had to trust my instincts and do my own research. I don't rate the aftercare I received very highly at all.

Now, here's the next bit no one told us about. Cluster feeding. Translated into feeding just about every waking minute. No one told me and I didn't think to research how often my baby would feed, I didn't know how quickly breast milk was digested and I knew nothing about how clever Harry would be at telling my body how much milk to produce. I'd lived in a world influenced by formula companies. I thought Harry should feed X times a day, have X much, and that if he wanted any more he must be hungry and must need formula. Unless you are in the 2% who are not able to breastfeed, your milk is enough, your baby is doing what they need to do. Go with it.

Somehow, the experience of breastfeeding him (even when via syringe) for only a couple of days triggered something in me. The mind set was there. Harry was not having formula. I was not going to risk my supply by "topping up" and I was going to trust my baby and my body to figure it all out. They'd done alright working together for nine months to make Harry and bring him into the world so I felt they were a trusted combo. 

So I fed, all day, all night, I relied on Scott to bring me drinks and have them through a straw while he stood there. I relied on my parents to do our washing and ironing, we ate ready meals and sterilised nipple shields in the precious moments that Harry slept. I lay on the sofa for eight hours straight one day feeding; Harry would sleep for 15 minutes every now and then before waking with such a scream I felt I was failing. But now, 4 months on, he's thriving!

TIP FIVE; buy straws or drink bottles with straws. Drink LOTS! I was so thirsty for the first few weeks - I'd never experienced anything quite like it. 

TIP SIX; ask for help, accept help, give in and be helped. You're keeping a brand new human alive, it's okay to get someone to wait on you for a bit.

Social media was a blessing at these times. 24/7 access to mums going through the same thing and others who were on the other side telling us it was normal. Grab another chocolate bar, get comfy, get Netflix and settle down for the duration. 

TIP SEVEN; stock up on chocolate and get a Netflix subscription (much more useful present by the way than another baby gro!!) 

TIP EIGHT; find support! Social media has a lot to answer for in many negative ways, but it was a lifeline to me. Find a group that works for you, I would recommend a breastfeeding support group rather than generic parenting ones. 

There are lots of breastfeeding clinics/groups in my area, but for one reason and another I never made it. Unfortunately in those early days when I needed help the most, I couldn't get out of the house on time. More than one occasion, with both my Mum and Scott helping me to get ready, Harry was feeding so constantly I missed the whole 2 hour clinic. Don't beat yourself up when this happens.

Another difficulty was not wanting to hear yet another person's opinion. After the bad experience with the aftercare team, I just didn't want to face another 'expert' and be told something different or be made to feel even worse than I already did.

During ante-natal classes and groups, there was so much focus on giving birth and pain relief. In my opinion, far too much time is spent on this. Baby is coming out one way or another and you'll take what pain relief you and your midwife feel is appropriate on the day. No where near enough time is given to talking about breastfeeding and absolutely no mention was made of thrush.

We had thrush for weeks. The pain was immense.

My contractions started at 11pm on Friday night and Harry was born at 6:24pm on the Sunday. It was relatively quick. Contractions come and go and once the pushing was over, I had Harry and the pain disappeared. Thrush, however, is evil. It's there all day. It's there when you shower, when you undress, when you feed, when you've stopped feeding. I can remember gripping the bed sheets in agony, tears running down my face as Harry fed. No-one so much as hinted this could happen.

I could have stopped breastfeeding. I had the ability, but, my determination and pain threshold was seriously diminishing. Somehow, the mind set and the bond created from breastfeeding got me through. I did some research, I read medical journals and wrote a letter to the partner of the GP surgery and a different approach was taken. Another week or so later and we were thrush free.

TIP NINE; stock up on pain relief, refer to tip one and tip eight, don't give up.

While pregnant, you focus on your new body shape and there's a need for some maternity clothes. You think about something comfy to wear once baby is born, but then, then what? I hadn't really prepared for breastfeeding clothes. Particularly at the beginning while you're learning how to get the latch and when baby might be on and off quite a lot, what you wear can be important. I lived in shirts, cardigans and breastfeeding support tops. I also bought just about every breastfeeding bra I could find (always go bigger!) until finally finding some that were comfortable.

Four months down the line, I can breastfeed in more types of clothes, have got used to how to be discreet when needed but still have certain clothes I'll wear if I know I'll need to feed in public. It's worth giving it some thought as unfortunately you'll find some of your lovely dresses, cute leotards that you wear with your favourite skirt and jumpers with embellishments are just not practical.

TIP TEN; review your wardrobe. Buy cheap crop top style bras in a couple of sizes too big. I really liked these from ASDA. I also found H&M breastfeeding tops to be the best for support and comfort.

Okay, let's talk about leaking. It happens. A lot. It can leave you with wet patches all down your top, it can shoot across the room, it can hit baby/partner in the eye. It soaks your bed sheets and you have to decide whether to eat/drink/shower/go for a wee or change the bed sheets on a daily basis. Honestly, you get so accustomed to lying in/wearing bodily fluids it all becomes a bit of a non-event.

It does stop though and it all calms down. But while you're dealing with it, I can only say try a few different pads to find ones that you like. Stock up on a few before baby arrives. I only really got on with Johnsons. I would also suggest taking a spare vest top out with you in case of any particularly bad leaks. It's also a good idea to have a scarf with you - I keep one in my change bag - to help with covering up during a feed and any leaks afterwards. Oh, and during a feed baby can throw up what seems like a whole feed all down you. It's like someone actually threw a glass of milk at you.

TIP ELEVEN; don't waste all that marvellous milk or get yourself soaked for no reason! I wish someone had told me about the Haakaa pump (again, far more useful gift than a baby gro). I found out via a breastfeeding Facebook group and it's been amazing. Easy to use and a great way to grow your freezer stash.

While you're getting used to things, find a few places around the home you feel comfortable feeding in (after a while, honestly, you'll feed anywhere!) and have essentials available. For example, bottles of water, grapes, chopped peppers and chocolate. Mostly chocolate. You may also find a breastfeeding basket helpful; make sure your partner or other support know where it is and how/when it needs replenishing.

TIP TWELVE; if baby is eating/drinking, you should be eating/drinking too! Try and drink water and have some grapes (and chocolate) during each feed. Especially in those first few weeks when you can barely remember your name, let alone how to sustain a healthy diet. Or any diet for that matter.

I wish I had been a little more prepared with all of the above, but, then, it's also been really fun finding out about it together with Scott and Harry. We've laughed, I've cried, I've never taken so many paracetemol in my life (oh, one more tip, check EVERYTHING before taking it! I once took a cold/flu drink and then found out it can affect your supply. Assume everything is unsafe before you take it!).

Get Amazon Prime, try things, if it doesn't work, try something else.

Remember what an incredible thing you are doing; you were solely responsible for growing your baby for 9 months and now you can be solely responsible for keeping them alive and well. It's such a great feeling at weigh ins, when they're gaining well and you know you're responsible for every ounce. You feel empowered, special, privileged, exhausted, anxious about feeding in public, sometimes trapped that you can't just leave the house for a minute in case baby needs a feed.

It gets easier, you settle into a little groove, you and baby figure it out. Don't give up, without sounding like an advert or cliché, it is without doubt the best thing I have ever experienced. I love every feed, I love it at 4am when it's just us. I love it when Harry looks up at me with his huge blue eyes during a feed, knowing that I am the only person alive who gets that view.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The kindness of people you used to know

We all have them. People who we used to know. Ex colleagues, school friends, people who we don't remember how we once knew them. People who come and go and whom you may smile at if see them in town.

I didn't expect how having Harry would place such importance on the people who I used to know. To-date, I've already made plans to see three people whom I used to know. All because of my wonderful little boy. He's rebuilt connections that have long been lost and forgotten, he's made me approachable to people once again, I have something in common with them once more and I'm humbled by the kindness of the people who I used to know. 

People who reach out and say "hey, it's okay, I've been there too". The ones who know what you're going through and the ones who like you have some time to fill in their day and open their arms and are willing to negotiate Costa with a pushchair (forget ante natal classes, that's what you need a lesson in!!) for you. 

These people may not realise it, but they are truly amazing at a time when life is somewhat unrecognisable. They give you something to look forward to, hope of a new friendship, empathy and understanding when you need it most. They'll help you negotiate small spaces and calm your baby so you can drink your tea, while others may tut and raise a judgemental eyebrow, or just not bother with you at all. 

It's fantastic to renew old friendships but sadly it highlights how some friendships you had at the time of giving birth are slowly fading away. I guess it's just the world's way of balancing things out. 

Friday, 16 December 2016

Hi. My name is Sophie.

I did the unthinkable. I was at a baby group and I initiated a conversation. With another human being that isn't Harry. The conversation went along the lines of:

Me: sorry, but I really recognise you...(why oh why do I start a conversation with sorry?!) 

Me and other human being (OHB): exchange various questions on our children, participation in baby groups, ante natal classes, GP Surgery. This goes on for a while before...

OHB: what's your name? 

Me: (uncomfortable pause) it's Sophie, erm, (pause while I remember surname). 

We then discovered we had worked together a few years ago and proceeded to have a very enjoyable non-baby related conversation. 

It occurred to me that prior to having a baby asking someone's name is one of the first things you do; post-baby it drops right to the bottom of the list. Everything becomes about the baby, which makes sense as they are your world and the one obiovus thing you have in common. 

You drop down on your own priority list so it's only natural that you're not high on anyone else's.

So accustomed to booking things in Harry's name, responding to his name for appointments, and being referred to as Mummy it felt unfamiliar to just say my name. I am Harry's Mummy. I am his world and he mine. But, also, I am Sophie.