To my baby son

As you lie here, asleep,
Completely encircled in my arms
Already so much bigger than you were
But just a fraction of the man you’ll be
I look at you and wonder at all the sights your eyes will see
All the sounds your ears will hear
All the places you will go, some near and some far
And I want to capture this night, lock it away in my head,
To remember when my arms were the place you longed to be
For in no time you’ll be grown and too big for your mummy to hold

My son, it is impossible to capture in words
All the love I have in my heart
You, like your brother,
will be my life’s work
I hope I do you proud.

Xxx

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On breastfeeding in public

I’m coming up for air (literally!) after a weekend which has been spent mostly moving between our living room and the bathroom with our three year old as we (finally) try to crack potty training – more on that another time perhaps.

Anyway, back to the reason I’m here – I felt like chiming in to the pro-breastfeeding in public debate that’s currently raging on most social media after a Sports Direct store in Nottingham allegedly demanded that a woman leave the store purely because she had sat down and started to breastfeed her baby son.

Breastfeeding is really tough. My journey with it has taken two forms – one for each of my children. With Elliot, my first, it was plain sailing for a while but after a few weeks I began to find it quite hard. There was pain, tears and a crying baby much of the time, and I spent days with blocked ducts wishing he was bottle fed but at the same time not wanting to stop just yet. I bribed myself weekly to just make it another week – partly because I didn’t know how to stop without causing more pain, and also aware of the guilt I may feel if I did. Eventually we mixed fed him from about 4 months until a fateful day in month 8 or 9 where he bit me and that was it. No more boob. To be honest, he didn’t bat an eyelid. As long as food reached him in some form, he was happy. I wish I’d realised this sooner.

With Alexander it’s been a different story. After a few ouchy days to start off, we’ve settled into feeding so well that I now have an issue where he simply refuses a bottle, so I’m stuck. Unable to go out, or leave him anywhere for longer than about 2 hours. Oops.

But back to the debate in hand. I feel so awful for the woman in question. You are really pretty vulnerable when feeding in public – despite the obvious fact that you’ve got your boob out (enough to make most people feel at least a bit self conscious), you’ve also got the issue of a hungry, and therefore probably not the quietest, baby to deal with which inevitably brings the attention of 99% of the people in the area all focusing on you. As a mum it can be really hard to block this out long enough to shush your baby whilst getting a bit of your body, that you don’t really want to be waving about, out whilst covering enough of it so as not to draw attention. Oh and of course this is mostly done with one hand if you’re also holding said crying baby with the other. Add to that keeping an eye on any other kids you may have to make sure they’re not running off/talking to strangers/throwing themselves under buses etc, and you’ve got yourselves a headache of a situation. Quite frankly it’s way easier to stay at home. But we don’t, of course, and that’s why Sports Direct should be so ashamed of their staff members involved. Let’s not add another reason to the already huge list which makes feeding our babies in public the ridiculous obstacle it is today, shall we?

After all, if she’d been feeding the baby from a bottle, would we even be having this debate?

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Mother’s Day Confession

Elliot: Mummy is it your birthday?

Me: no, it’s Mother’s Day. A day we have to be nice to our mummies.

Elliot: oh

(Silence)

Elliot: (quietly) I didn’t make you a flower

Me: did the other children make flowers at pre-school?

Elliot: yes. I did a card and a biscuit though!

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Parenting without the guilt?

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One of the things that new parents, particularly mums apparently, are often surprised by is the amount of guilt that comes with the parenting territory. It comes along right when you’re least expecting, and the accompanying physical feeling of having all the wind taken forcibly out of your lungs is really something to be feared. Experts tell us that guilt arises when we become aware of failing to be the best we could have been for our children (normally right when you’ve just yelled at them for no specific reason other than being the sole adult with them for 8¬†straight hours!)

On any given day, the following things can make me feel like my stomach is about to flip right over with guilt:

  1. Sending my toddler off to childcare. In our house, Elliot spends two days a week in pre-school, and a further day with each set of grandparents. This means I only look after both my children together on one day a week. Up to now this has worked really well. As I am currently on maternity leave from my four-day-a-week job, Alexander gets my full attention (when I’m not writing blog posts or cleaning the house) for the time that Elliot is away, which is what Elliot had at the same age. Elliot gets to spend time with other children and also with his grandparents – something I loved as a child, and an opportunity for them to spend time with him also. More often than not, I spend part of the day he’s at my parents with them all, so it’s only really three days that Elliot isn’t with me. Still the sight of a crying toddler who wants to “stay with mummy” being bundled into a car and probably arousing suspicion of kidnap among our neighbours on at least two mornings out of every week is tough.
  2. The variety (or more accurately the lack of variety) in my toddler’s diet. To get him to eat any sort of vegetable that isn’t hidden (thank you Annabel Karmel) in a sauce or pie is nigh on impossible and is normally accompanied by all sorts of excuses ranging from “I don’t like it” to “I’m too tired” or the standard “mummy, I’ll do it tomorrow” (by the way tomorrow, when it comes, is going to be an amazing day in our house!) The crazy child also turns his nose up at previous staples like bananas and blueberries. Weird! Despite knowing that it’s a phase, and my child will more than likely voluntarily eat some form of vegetable at some point in the future, I do look at other kids happily munching on carrot sticks/ cherry tomatoes/ broccoli trees and feel all sorts of guilt.
  3. Handing over parenting responsibilities to technology for anything over 20 minutes a day. I feel so proud if I can make it for a whole morning or afternoon without giving in to the demands of “can I have your phone/ipad?” And the truth is, as well as watching endless ridiculous videos of Thomas and his friends being covered with or built out of PlayDoh (something he is desperate to recreate at home, and that I’ve so far avoided!) he also spends time tracing letter forms, watching shows on iplayer like The Lingo ?Show, and drawing pictures on any number of art apps which isn’t too bad. The fact that he knows how to launch youtube, press search, and type in “Thomas” to find his programmes makes me feel pretty guilty. (Though I did have a moment of pride recently when he showed me that he was trying to search for Abney and Teal (yes, another TV programme) and he’d got as far as “abnet and tyal” – clever boy!)

Thankfully a quick google search reveals that all this guilt may not actually be such a bad thing.

For most of us a moderate amount of guilt is actually a sign of love, our strong attachment and commitment to do the best we can to raise healthy children. [Psychology Today “Are you a guilty parent?”¬†Sept, 2011]

 
Well that’s a relief! Maybe the only thing we’re guilty of is loving our children and wanting to do the best for them. That’s no bad thing really!

Now you’ll have to excuse me, I’m off to buy more colours of PlayDoh so I can finally give in to those demands to build engines! Wish me luck!

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On knowing when to stop

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When Elliot was a baby, I really enjoyed watching him grow and develop. I spent weeks anticipating and thinking about each new milestone – sleeping through the night, moving into his own room, packing up the bassinet and converting to a sit up buggy, beginning weaning, crawling etc.

I had expected to feel the same this time. After all I’ve done this all before haven’t I? I thought I’d be able to get even more excited about each new step this time around as I wouldn’t have the added anxiety that sometimes hindered me from fully embracing the steps with Elliot. With him, I had worried about converting the buggy to a sit up buggy, and I spent quite a while worrying about when to start weaning.

I know I’m not going to be really anxious about any of these milestones this time around. However, what I didn’t expect was to feel such an element of sadness at each stage.

I packed up the newborn baby clothes a couple of weeks ago and found it a lot harder than I had thought I would. Alexander is now pretty much filling his 0-3 clothes and so I think it won’t be long before they’re packed up too! Really not looking forward to that.

Alexander is also definitely outgrowing the Moses basket in our room, and so really should be moving into his own cot in his bedroom. Elliot was in his own room from about 10 weeks, and Alexander is now 14 weeks old and is bigger than Elliot was at this age. He has been sleeping in his own room during the early part of the night, and up to now we’ve been taking him up to our room when he woke for a feed.

I’ve managed to put off settling him back in his own room after this feed for this long by using the excuse that we are now up in the new attic room, so Alexander would be on a different floor entirely, and I’d have to spend time going up and down stairs in the night, and that could disturb Elliot. The truth is that I’ve just not wanted this stage to happen. I want to keep Alexander in our room, a tiny baby in a Moses basket, as in my head I know it’s probably the last time I’ll have that.

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We did think about using the travel cot in our room for a bit, but ultimately I felt that that would just be me putting off the inevitable, so last night I bit the bullet and left him in his own room the whole night (obviously going in to feed him!) He did really well, woke 3 or 4 times, but settled ok in his big cot. It was nice having a proper place to sit and feed him rather than perching on the side of our bed, but it was very odd not having him in our room when I woke this morning. I’m glad that for once Elliot didn’t come upstairs to find us, as I would have stupidly felt like I had to go and get Alexander so that he wouldn’t be “on his own” downstairs. This is, I know, plain ridiculous!

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What is going on in my brain? I’m hoping this is normal for mums when they think they’re going through these steps for the last time?

We haven’t “officially” decided that we won’t have any more children. I don’t think I could ever rule it out entirely, but common sense tells me that three children would certainly make life more complicated. We’d need a new car and a new house (probably). How would we ever afford a holiday let alone shoes for everyone? And what happens if any of them want to go to university? My parents helped me with so many things, and I want to be able to do that for my children. Three children would ultimately mean that each child gets less, so in some ways the best thing for Elliot and Alexander would be for us not to have any more. I’m just not sure how I feel about that right now.

Until I do get my head to see sense, I’m putting this all down to hormones, and will console myself with lots of cuddles with my growing-up-too-fast boys, and perhaps some chocolate cake!

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