Am I jealous of your baby?

I wanted to write this blog post because it’s a question I have not only asked myself about other women’s pregnancies and babies since Samuel being born in the second trimester, but even prior to his arrival, I could never quite make sense of how those around me struggling with infertility, or having suffered miscarriage and baby loss, would feel about my own pregnancies or baby…and to be quite honest, mothers with babies who suffered extreme prematurity weren’t even on my radar.

Google defines to be jealous as ‘feeling or showing envious resentment of someone or their achievements, possessions, or perceived advantages’. I’d like to explore this a little bit and explain where I’m at.

Having a ‘Mummy Instagram’ page & feed means that almost every day, thanks to the good old algorithm, I will see at least a handful of pregnancy announcements, baby bump photos, birth announcements and newborn photos. I stop to look at these posts, I tap ‘like’ on these posts, I leave comments on these posts. When I say ‘congratulations’ on a pregnancy, or a new baby, or a gender reveal…I mean it, from the bottom of my heart. I do not resent a new or expectant parent’s happiness, and I would never be disingenuous about this or avoid wishing them well because of my own experience. There is no happier or more moving time than the promise of new life…I’ve been in those shoes and I 100% buy into sharing the excitement.

However, that doesn’t stop a niggle that I never used to feel. A sting of sadness; a reminder that what was supposed to be for us didn’t happen that way, and of everything else that happened instead.

Even now almost 10 months later, I am not yet comfortable to be around other babies. It’s impossible still for me to not look and compare what a ‘normal’ baby is doing, what the baby looks like and what has come naturally for Mum and baby, which wasn’t the same for me and Samuel. I have two close friends who were due months before me, whose babies were born after Samuel, in the same month. It may be almost a year since he was born, but that does not mean I have forgotten the experience or that his preemie journey is over, or even will be over for a number of years.

To see Samuel aside babies of the same age who are twice his size and in some cases almost walking, is something I will hold my hands up and say I am not yet stoic enough to deal with gracefully, and is a situation I will continue to avoid until I feel differently. There is actually a designated baby clinic in my area for babies who were on the special care unit at my local hospital, so that they can get weighed/chat to other Mums of premature or sick babies without experiencing these feelings. I haven’t yet attended it myself, and tend to take Samuel to the ‘normal’ baby clinic. For me, this is about taking little steps to push myself into situations where I can gradually learn to feel more at ease around Mums and babies who haven’t been in my shoes. I don’t engage in chit chat, but I’m there. It’s part of the healing process.

The other new and unexpected emotion I now find myself processing when it comes to pregnancies is that I am almost entirely unable to get my head around the possibility that the outcome of a pregnancy can be positive, and am struck by the fear and anxiety of this, completely unnecessarily, on another woman’s behalf. I know logically that what happened with Samuel is very rare; only 7% of births in the UK are premature, and of that 7%, just 5% were born before 28 weeks and would be classed as ‘extremely preterm’*. But knowing this doesn’t take away from the fact that it did happen to us, and that every second and third trimester bump photo now triggers a habitual thought pattern for me that includes willing the baby to stay in there ‘til they’re absolutely ready, calculating in my mind the potential size/weight and stage of the babies’ development (particularly their lungs), and comparing this to Samuel at birth. I would like to think this is because it’s still not been that long, and that eventually one day I will see gorgeous bumps and scrummy newborn babies with only the feelings of joy and excitement, without a tainting by my experience.

I don’t believe I’m special, or am worthy of any kind of exclusive treatment. I don’t like a fuss of any kind (good or bad – the thought of a big party thrown on my behalf, for example, calls for me to tuck my head away in my hands or rush to the toilet for a nervous poo). I certainly would never ask for, or expect anyone to tiptoe around me because of the indignities and failings of my own reproductive system. If there’s a situation or conversation I would rather avoid, I generally do just that, it’s no one else’s fault or responsibility. Unless backed into a corner or subject to a serious feather ruffling, I don’t tend to speak my mind about sensitive issues that pertain to me. This is why when someone pregnant has a moan to me about being pregnant (which having had a full-term pregnancy myself I COMPLETELY understand and empathise with) it is always of value to me if the disclaimer of ‘I know I probably shouldn’t whinge to you’, or similar, is thrown in there somewhere…at least in comparison to the times when it is not. Not because I think anyone owes me an explanation, or an apology, but it’s of comfort to me know that another mother might appreciate that it may potentially be difficult or uncomfortable for me to hear.

Bitter? No. Resentful? No. Jealous? Still unsure…maybe ‘envy’ is more on the mark?

Lucky? Definitely…I am under no illusion that I am one of the luckiest ones. Whatever the journey, my baby is here and never a day will pass where I am not acutely aware of how fortunate we are to have him.

Have you ever experienced any feelings like this? Perhaps you’re an IVF parent, have suffered miscarriage, baby loss, or are a fellow preemie parent? I would love to hear from you, it can be a lonely old place when we don’t talk!

Jo XX

*premature birth statistics from tommys.org

You won’t fall pregnant without treatment: My PCOS journey

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Around the age of 22, I decided I wanted to take a break from taking the contraceptive pill. I had been on Dianette for moderate acne for some years, and I just knew it wasn’t doing me any good (that drug is evil in its purest form…for me, anyway!) and I found that my ‘periods’ (obviously the ones you have whilst on the pill aren’t genuine) did not return. The official term for this is ‘secondary amenorrhea’, which basically means you did have a menstrual cycle, and now you don’t.

I went to the doctors after around 6 months, and was told to give it more time. I waited and waited, and over a year had passed before they decided to do some blood tests to figure out what might be going on. The results showed that I had low levels of what’s called the Leuteinizing hormone. This is the hormone that triggers ovulation, so basically every month when my body tried (or didn’t try) to ovulate, it wasn’t quite happening. The doctor referred me to the hospital for an ultrasound, which confirmed I had multiple cysts on my ovaries, and ‘scars’ from cysts that had come up and gone down again when they had tried to pop out an egg multiple times, and not managed to do so.

During the appointment when they explained this to me, a non-native English speaking doctor explained to me very matter-of-factly (it very may well have been the language barrier causing the perceived bluntness) that I would not get pregnant naturally, without medical intervention. I was only 23 and having a baby was so far from anything I had even in the periphery of my plans at the time, but nevertheless, to hear this was still pretty upsetting. It wasn’t an option? Ever?! What is wrong with me? They said I would need to gain weight before they would consider taking my case any further (I had a BMI of around 14 at the time; the weight fell off me very quickly after coming off the pill), and that really, I would need to be actively trying for a baby for at least 18 months before I would qualify for any kind of fertility treatment.

I was definitely not in ‘the zone’ to be trying for a baby, or putting pressure on myself to gain weight at what was meant to be the most fun and carefree time of my life…finally graduated from University, renting a decent flat and in a stable job, with the freedom to pretty much do whatever I damn well pleased for the first time ever (it was glorious…!) The relationship I was in at the time certainly wasn’t heading in the direction of anything so serious, or long term…so I just accepted it and carried on with my life, although it still played on my mind from time to time.

Fast forward to a couple of years later, and despite my reservations about the pill, I decided it was best that I go back on, and persuaded my doctor to put me on Yasmin instead (I had heard good things; that it was more gentle and good for people with mild acne/PCOS, both of which I had). It did take a lot of persuading, I guess it’s expensive to prescribe…but anyway, I still experienced some adverse symptoms from taking it (bloating, loss of sex drive, migraines, mood swings etc.), but stayed on for another two or so years.

During those two years, my circumstances changed when I met Jack, and so did my state of mind. For the first time, I actually saw myself settling down, getting married, having babies. After we had been together just over a year, the symptoms were getting too much and I decided it was time for another break from the pill, and to hopefully ‘reset’ my body so that in a couple years’ time, it might be ready for us to start thinking about babies.

I found after coming off that yet again, the weight fell off me and my skin flared up in painful and unsightly cystic acne round my jaw, and comedones (skin coloured bumps) over my face almost straight away. I had maybe two (irregular) periods, before they stopped completely, yet again. It was mega depressing being back where I was a few years ago, if not worse, and I started researching holistic ways to balance my hormones and clear my skin. All of the information I seemed to find about PCOS suggested that losing weight would be helpful, but this assumed that I might be struggling with being overweight, which didn’t apply to me.

I tried so many potions/powders & supplements; maca powder, bee pollen, Agnus Castus (chasteberry), chromium, fish oil, vitamin D, vitamin A…and so many more I can’t remember! Nothing *really* worked, not significantly. I was getting seriously depressed with it, because not only did I feel grotesque, my bad skin was a physical reminder that something wasn’t ‘right’ inside me, and that my hormones were still imbalanced after all these years.

I read a fair bit about a link between PCOS and insulin resistance/type 2 diabetes. There was one thing that seemed to make a difference when I tried it, and that was following a low GI/GL diet. No sugar, no refined carbs, no alcohol etc. Whenever I managed to stick to this for more than a couple of weeks, I managed to trigger my body into ovulating, and I would have a period. I would then relax a little… “hurrah, my body is working!” and then become complacent and go back to eating normally again, the periods would stop, and the pattern would continue.

In the end, I went back to the doctor (different surgery this time as I had moved) and was basically told I wasn’t heavy enough to be referred, and that my issues most likely stemmed from being underweight. I 100% knew this wasn’t the reason, and threw a big hissy fit…but I still went away and made an effort to eat as much (mostly healthy) food as possible to gain the weight needed to be referred. Months passed, and I managed to gain maybe half a stone, which still wasn’t quite enough. It was becoming extremely demoralising, so in the end I booked another doctor’s appointment. Just before the appointment I ate a large lunch and on my walk to the surgery, downed a 2 litre and a 1 litre bottle of water (my poor bladder; but you gotta do what you gotta do!)

Feeling suitably sick and stuffed, they weighed me and Hallelujah, I scraped the weight they had asked of me by about half a lb. They finally put me in for a referral, where I eventually had another ultrasound confirming I had PCOS, or more accurately this time, that I *HAD* PCOS, and there were scars there to show it, but my body hadn’t created any new cysts recently due to my cycle being completely dormant.

The plan was made that I would start a drug called Clomid, which is intended to trigger ovulation. It was around March at the time, and we decided between us (myself and Jack) that we would wait ‘til after the Summer for me to start treatment. I was just so relieved that something was in place to get me sorted, but we weren’t in any mad rush to get pregnant and thought it best after all the stress, to just enjoy our Summer. We were engaged and had a holiday planned to Sicily to look at wedding venues, and our weekends were just one party sesh after another (wistfully remembering these long-ago fun times!)

Fast forward to June, and a few people at my work were attempting a 5 day juice fast, for various reasons. In my infinite wisdom, I decided this might be good for my skin, so I joined in (never, ever, EVER again….). I made it to the end of day 3 and caved; I started eating vegetables and fruit again… I needed to chew and feel actual food in my belly! I was actually quite poorly for a week or so afterwards, it wasn’t a good move for me and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it, but that’s just me. My skin didn’t improve, and I was more bloated than ever. HOWEVER, sometime in the two weeks following the fast, I must have ovulated, and after a night of carefree partying…we got pregnant.

The same thing happened after I gave birth to Thea; my periods stopped before they even really started. But this time, it was of no real consequence to me, as I was in no rush to get pregnant or expand our family…my skin was good satisfactory, and I wasn’t exactly complaining about not having periods, so I just ‘let it be’.

Following a trip to Spain where I had severe D+V for 2-3 days, we arrived home and yet again found out I was pregnant. It must have happened just after we got back.

*Before I point out the following, please be aware that I am in NO WAY qualified to give any kind of medical or dietary advice, and this blog is purely anecdotal; my own experience. Please refer to your GP for any medical issues.*

The thing that my two pregnancies have in common, is that I hasn’t been consuming refined sugar, carbs, alcohol in the weeks leading up to ovulating. First time because of the juice fast, second time because of the actual fast from being so unwell. AGAIN – I AM NOT SUGGESTING ANYONE DOES ANY KIND OF FAST, EVER! What I’m getting at is, the doctor who said I wouldn’t get pregnant without treatment was wrong. No information whatsoever relating to diet was offered to me, but it turns out (in my personal experience, and in line with much of the research known about PCOS) that diet plays a huge role in balancing hormones, and that in my circumstance at least, I was lucky enough to be able to manipulate my body into doing what it should, without drugs, and I now have two beautiful babies.

Everyone’s PCOS journey is different, the symptoms vary greatly. What PCOS looks like for me, might be completely different from what it looks like to someone else, and one size does not fit all in terms of treatment. I wanted to share my story and make the point that never doesn’t always necessarily mean never, and if you’re suffering with PCOS, you aren’t alone and there is hope!

Jo XX

How #MummaMakesItWork

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I was adamant throughout my pregnancy that I would continue to live as close to my ‘normal’, ‘pre-pregnancy’ life as possible once the baby arrived. That I would not get ‘lost’ in Motherhood and become detached from the traits of my personality and the characteristics of my lifestyle that made me ‘me’. I called for meetings with my boss to discuss my return to work (though unsure on the actual timings of when this would be) and wanted to make it absolutely clear that I wanted to retain my position. I told anyone who would listen that I would continue to do things for myself and show my daughter from the very beginning that both Mummies and Daddies work.

No one was more shocked than I was when I made the decision to ‘give up’ my job after 8 years in the workplace. Whether we think we are prepared for it or not, having a baby has a massive impact on our lives in so many varying ways. My reasons for not returning stemmed from multiple factors, and whilst it was not an ‘easy’ decision to make, my gut had made my mind up for me before I could process my thoughts fully. I didn’t feel I could leave Thea, even if our situation had more so easily allowed.

For a while I have wanted to create a post on returning to work after maternity leave, or in my case, not returning. I started to write, and I somehow felt that I wasn’t going to be able to effectively get the message that I wanted to across. I didn’t want to simply describe my own situation and how I felt personally, without being able to offer another perspective, or convey that I wholeheartedly respect and understand the many reasons that other Mums may be doing things differently. There is no one ‘right’ way, and the last thing I wanted to do was give the impression that I thought mine was, without giving a nod to fellow Mamas.

I decided the post should be a collab, and reached out to other blogging Mums with children of a similar age, each with individual circumstances with regards to their return to work. We put together a simple Q&A to discuss our thoughts, reasons and doubts over our situations. You can link to read their answers at the end of this post!

Here are mine…

  1. How soon after having your baby (or finding out you were pregnant!) did you decide how you would continue after maternity leave?

Before going on maternity leave and all through my pregnancy I was absolutely adamant that I would be returning to work. Firstly because of our financial situation, and secondly because I was oh-so-certain that the baby would work around me, slot into my life and I would be able to continue on as normal. PAHAHAHAHA. HA. Not so!

My decision to not return was a gradual one, made based on numerous factors following my daughter’s birth.

  1. Who else had influence over your decision?

My partner, because he said he would support whatever I decided, but also during my maternity leave, he had one of those ‘it’s now or never’ moments, and made a big decision to leave his job as a graphics installation manager and start up his own installation company. Since he’s still starting up and establishing a client base, it’s too soon to turn down work. His hours are long and completely random (sometimes I won’t see him for several days at a time while he works day and night, and I won’t know that is going to happen until a day or two before). The long and short of this is that I am pretty much the only ‘constant’ in Thea’s life, and the onus is on me for everything she does, wants, needs etc., so I want to be around to make sure she has some security in her life. Also, when my husband does get to have the odd day off, if I were due to be at work, this would then mean we’d not have the chance to be together as a family (he works a lot of weekends too), and that prospect just didn’t sit right with either of us.

My Mum, because when we were small she put her career on hold to be with us. She enjoyed it thoroughly, and doesn’t regret it one bit. All our memories of this time are deeply treasured and so happy. She went on to still have a brilliant career(s) and excel in many areas…so although becoming a stay at home Mum was never what I envisaged for myself or something I had ever even considered, my Mother’s recount of her choices and experience gave me the confidence to make the decision for myself, and my family.

  1. To what extent did finance have an impact on your choice?

I worked it out and after putting Thea into childcare, paying the train fare to the office & working reduced hours (I had a rough plan to work 6 hours, 4 days a week down from 8, 5 days a week), I would have only been a couple of hundred pounds a month better off (that’s not disposable income, that’s to contribute towards living costs etc.) and since my husband had now worked to get us in a position that allowed me the choice (which I am incredibly grateful for) I chose time with my daughter over that couple of hundred pounds.

  1. Do logistics/travel play a role in your decision?

We moved further away from my place of work to buy a house while I was pregnant…we got the keys after I had already begun my maternity leave. My train journey would have increased by about 15 minutes had I not got a baby to factor in. That doesn’t sound like much, but on top of this, I would have also had to somehow get Thea to and from nursery on foot (there are no nurseries near our home or nearby to any train stops on the way to the office) and get to work on time for a reasonable number of hours that would have made the faff worthwhile.

The move had a huge impact on my decision, but to re-locate to this new area was the only way we could afford to buy a house, and we wanted to be able to have the baby in our own home, given the choice.

  1. What kind of judgement from others have you feared or experienced?

This one is difficult, since I am embarrassed to say I didn’t have the highest opinion of stay at home parents before I had Thea and became one myself. Not that I thought they were in any way ‘less than’, but because I couldn’t understand how someone could choose to ‘not work’. What an absolute fool I was. Being a stay at home parent is the hardest effing job I have ever had, and there’s absolutely no monetary reimbursement involved! If I was paying someone else to look after my child, that would be considered a ‘proper’ job, whereas mine as her Mum is mostly not.

I have always been the kind of person who thrives in the workplace, so being a stay at home Mum is completely unchartered territory. If I had to summarise, I would say that my fears are that people would assume because of my situation that I am not clever, not driven, not capable, not a role model and not a feminist.

Even some of my oldest friends have looked at me with a mixture of confusion, sympathy and disapproval when I have explained my decision to not return to work, which I have very much struggled to come to terms with. At times have felt as though I no longer have anything to offer, or am no longer worthy of the same respect as when I was getting paid to work.

  1. How has your sense of identity/independence/confidence been affected?

Specific to not returning to my job, not having my own wage has been a difficult one to adjust to. I have always been in paid employment ever since I was 14 years old (that’s 17 years, folks) be it part-time while I studied, or full-time since finishing university. However, in our family it is me who handles all of our finances, so I do still feel involved and play an integral role. I am no longer employed in the traditional sense, but I am responsible for handling all of my husband’s business accounts and admin, as well as occasional freelance work for his clients, so that definitely gives me another focus and sense of value, and we work together towards the same goal of providing for our family. However, as far as anyone else is concerned, because I don’t take a wage or run my own business, I am probably ‘just’ a stay at home Mum, which I would be lying about if I said it doesn’t sting.

In some ways, I am far more confident than before I had Thea. I like myself better as a person. I look back on how my personality was affected by my job, and I don’t like a lot of things about that person. I could be stressy, impatient, often rude, judgemental & snotty. I don’t think that’s due to me working full stop, nor my former workplace. More so, an unfortunate bi-product of an underlying dissatisfaction with my situation at the time.

  1. Did you have career goals prior to pregnancy? How do you feel about them now?

I’ve never had my heart set on one particular job. I studied English Language & Linguistics at Uni, which is more of a core subject rather than specialist, so I’d hoped by ‘playing it safe’ it would leave me open to approach a range of roles/industries. I’ve held two full time jobs since I graduated, both office-based. I would have liked to have been challenged more than I was. The main challenges for me ended up being the workload, and dealing with stressful deadlines/confrontations. I didn’t feel as though I was doing any ‘good’ or had anything to show for my commitment or how stressed I had become, which muted my inspiration and enthusiasm in the end. I do slightly regret allowing a lot of my career so far to be made up of ‘firefighting’ and not reaching my potential…but equally, I am confident that once Thea is a bit older, that I am bright, flexible and hardworking enough to re-establish my career and that I will know my own mind better to follow what it is I feel passionately about.

  1. In what form does your ‘Mum Guilt’ kick in?

I think people assume that only ‘working’ Mums feel guilty. This is definitely not the case! Often if we haven’t made it out to a class/playgroup/activity any given day, I worry that Thea might be bored, or that she would rather be with some friends than at home with me while I do work or try (largely unsuccessfully!) to keep up with running the house.

I also feel guilty because I know there might be other Mums and Dads out there who wish they could stay at home too, and if I complain about my bum not touching a seat ‘til gone 8pm (because looking after a toddler all day whilst juggling everything else is HARD!) I may appear to be coming off as ungrateful or resentful, which I can assure you is definitely not the case. I always try and make the most of every day I have with Thea, whether that’s taking her out, playing at home or just singing songs and reading the same book a million times over with her sat on my lap instead of getting on with what I ‘should’ be.

  1. Name your biggest doubt/insecurity over your situation.

When I see or hear the term ‘role model’ used for being a working Mum, I get a pang in my gut…am I not setting a good example by raising my daughter full time instead of going out to work? Am I an inferior role model by taking another route instead? I have the utmost respect for Mums who go to work, I’d go as far to say admiration. I agree that it’s a fantastic example to set your children by showing them how to hold down a career and create your own independence. So when I see rants on social media or experience judgement about being a stay at home Mum, I do feel a bit upset that the support isn’t always reciprocated. I am cautious about being too open about the reasons why I am ok with putting my career on hold for a few years, because I don’t want to cause any offence or come off as though I don’t understand or respect why other Mums choose (or have to) do things differently.

Another concern is that I worked really hard and invested a lot of money into going to university and working my arse off for years, and whilst I’m not in paid employment, it’s difficult to not worry on some level that it was all for nothing. I do know really that it wasn’t, but it’s something that crosses my mind from time to time.

  1. Finish this sentence ‘I am happy with my decision because….’

…at the end of every day, I feel good about being with Thea. I genuinely don’t get bored with hanging out with her. I feel like I’m fulfilling a role I didn’t know I was made for, and I know I’m doing my best. I know I will 100% return to my career when the time is right. But for now, for my own little family and our situation at this moment in time, I am right where I need to be.

Jo X

See answers from:

Skorchcake

Mums Revolution

The Mummy Saving Expert

Adventures of Lyncoln and Sophia

Thrifty Mumma Thrifty Bubba

Georgie Plus Three

 

 

The End of the ‘Dummy Dash’

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Isn’t it incredible how before they’re born, you can raise your hypothetical children in such a particular and methodical way until they’re actually here, and suddenly you begin to play back and cringe at all the times you have described this picture-perfect upbringing to other parents, who for the most part practise enough restraint to give you a knowing ‘no teeth’ smile and simply say nothing, and the rest of the time struggle to stifle a snort and belly-chuckle as they shake their head and tell us “just you wait…”

I wasn’t planning on using a dummy with Thea. I couldn’t tell you any specific reason for why, but I had only bought x2 twin packs of dummys along with all the other newborn paraphernalia ‘just in case’. Lo and behold, only about 4 or 5 days into her life, she was sucking on a dummy at night. It instantly soothed her and helped her fall asleep…I guess I just have what you’d call a ‘sucky’ baby.

Fast forward 12 months, and my hypothetical non-dummy user is still using a dummy to fall asleep at night. And sometimes in the pram. And yeah, also in the car. For reasons unknown, it bothered me at first, I stressed myself about how I was going to get her ‘off’ the dummy. I attempted once to put her down without it and she screamed the place down and was so stressed out, and it was only 2 minutes! That little experiment was over quicker than it began!

Gradually, it dawned on me that there was no real reason for me to take away something that brought her so much comfort, so I forgot about it and never looked back. That’s not to say that we haven’t ran into problems.

Once she’s fallen asleep, Thea will at some point spit the dummy out. She’s now at an age where she mostly stays asleep without sucking on it, but occasionally in the night during spells of teething, illness, developmental leaps and/or sleep regressions, she will wake up looking for it to go back to sleep. Quite frequently it’s gotten lost somewhere in her blankets or in the sleepyhead, and I end up being woken up to go in and give it back to her, and she goes straight back off.

I posted on Instagram a while back about my ‘dummy fishing’ on the floor with a coat hanger under Thea’s cot for the ones that got lost in the night. My system was to have 2 spares on the footstool, in case I needed to go in there, swoop one up in the dark and  back into her mouth without disturbing or rousing her too much while searching for the lost one. In theory, of course. All a fair bit of hassle and messing around.

Thea’s also recently gotten into the habit of throwing her dummy across the room when she doesn’t want to go to sleep, or dropping it out the side of the pram or car seat when she is feeling bored/defiant. This normally means frantically fumbling around in my bottomless, Mary Poppins-esque changing bag or deep, fluffy coat pockets, rifling through for a steriliser pack with hopefully a spare dummy lurking to save the day. All very inconvenient and not at all helpful in the midst of a baby-turned-toddler meltdown.

Although I knew they existed, I hadn’t tried a dummy clip before, so when Baby Wings gifted us a set of Pacifier Clips, it seemed like the answer to all of our dummy-related woes, in 3 cute and colourful designs.

They clip on safely and easily to your baby’s clothes without damaging the fabric, and prevent dummies from being flung into the dirt, lost in the footwell of the car or buried in the cot until the next ‘dummy fishing’ expedition. We have the ‘Sakura Flowers Set’, but they also have some cool geometric print and space-themed ones.

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I found these SO useful in the car or pram. Not only did they prevent ‘dummy overboard’ situations, Thea was actually fascinated by the design and enjoyed fiddling with the strap. Of late, she’s loathed being constrained to any kind of seat, and we get arched-back protests and attempts to escape, but playing with the strap and studying the patterns kept her occupied for ages; we didn’t experience any of the usual transport-related tantrums when using the Baby Wings clips, even on the 2-3 hour car journey to my parents’.

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We’ve also had a bad spell of teething and illness in our household recently, so during times of mega-whinge, Thea sat and felt sorry for herself in her famous beanbag chair watching telly, pacifier clip in tow, soothed by absent-minded fidgeting of the strap and chewing on the dummy.

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Arguably the biggest benefit comes at night, where using the clips means there’s no faffing around in the dark searching for lost dummies behind the neck or in the covers etc.;Thea can easily find it and pop it back in herself. She’s actually gone back to sleeping through these last few days, following the evil 12 month sleep regression!

If you’ve not used a dummy clip before or are looking for some new ones, I can highly recommend Baby Wings and I will continue to use the pretty set so kindly gifted to us.

You can purchase here from their Amazon shop.

If your bubba a dummy user? When did you decide to give them one? Do they use it all the time, or only certain situations? I’d be interested to know their ages and the way the dummy works for them.

Jo X

 

 

 

Sectioned Off

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What if I told you my baby’s birth wasn’t ‘real’? By definition, my baby cannot exist. If my baby did not exit my body from between my legs like science tells us it was supposed to, was I ever even really pregnant?!

I’ll grant you this little nugget for nothing…there is zero make-believe about 48 hours of slow, painful, unavailing labour. Ask my husband if you require verification, he’ll tell you how he caught my sick in umpteen cardboard kidney dishes precisely every 3 minutes for at least 20 of those hours.

I’m not here to divulge the details of my birth story (not today, anyway!). What I’m trying to say is that it WAS ‘real’. I most definitely WAS pregnant. A baby most definitely DID exit my body, and she most definitely DOES exist.

Yep, my baby was born by c-section. It was an emergency c-section, not that it should matter. I HAD originally planned to have an elective, for two reasons;

  • I was told early on in my pregnancy that I had an abnormality to the shape of my uterus, which could potentially make it difficult to carry a baby to full term and often results in a c-section.
  • I had (and still have!) a phobia of giving birth. I didn’t feel my body could handle it, nor that I could handle what it would do to my body if I survived.

I had my mind made up early on about the way I wanted my baby to come out; the safest possible for both of us. Confident about my decision to opt for an elective section, I was ready and prepared to get everything put into place.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I made the disheartening discovery that by dropping the ‘C-Bomb’, I was committing a cardinal sin of pregnancy. I found myself berated for my choice, subject to disparaging remarks about ‘people’ (in case you need a translation from passive-aggressive to plain English, that means ‘you’!) thinking they’re ‘too posh to push’, a litany of complaints about the procedure itself, and how the culture of my generation promotes chopping up our bodies in order to get what we want from them.

It caught me completely off guard to find that on confiding my very personal decision, I’d been so quickly rebuked, and ended up feeling like I’d somehow be a less deserving mother for making it. At home, I sobbed to my husband, who obviously told me to forget everything I’d been told (in fact, I believe what he actually said was “f*ck ‘em, Jo” – ever eloquent, my Jack…) but pregnant and hyper-sensitive, it wasn’t as simple for me to just let these words run off me like water off a duck’s back. The comments weren’t just from strangers, some of them had come from people I knew, liked and respected. I tried to keep up my pre-pregnancy ‘no f*cks given’ facade, but behind closed doors I was hurt and confused.

Long story short, I eventually allowed myself to be browbeaten into having a ‘natural’ aka vaginal birth. Despite knowing what I did about my weird-shaped womb and harbouring a lifelong fear of childbirth, I wanted to enjoy and be supported in my pregnancy, without any further exposure to the criticism I had already faced.

As my pregnancy progressed, I watched my growing bump in awe. With every scan, every listen to the heartbeat and with every kick, flutter and wriggle, I became more and more convinced that my body could do it the ‘proper’ way. After all, it was already doing things I previously never imagined it would. “It might actually be ok!” became my new mantra, and although I wasn’t expecting a picnic, I acquainted myself with the concept of traditional childbirth through daily reminders of just how many people I knew that had done it before me, how they all lived to tell the tale, and that it was only temporary (except the part where you’re presented with your very own actual human baby to take home; arguably the scariest part of all – SERIOUSLY permanent!).

Anyway, it turned out that I was unequivocally and monumentally wrong. It wasn’t ok, and I couldn’t do it. I was in labour for 2 days before doctors intervened and my daughter was born by emergency c-section. As they stitched me up, the surgeons told me that from the position she had been wedged in, there was physically no way that she would have come out by any other means, even if my labour had progressed to the point where I could have started to think about pushing (I didn’t get past 5cm dilated!).

I will be forever frustrated with my pregnant self for not sticking with my original plan to have a c-section delivery, as that was what I needed, and what I ended up having…albeit under far more traumatic and precarious circumstances for both me and my baby. I had been affected by the c-section stigma that tells us we only earn respect as a mother if we follow in the footsteps of our foremothers and give it the old ‘heave ho’, at whatever cost to our health.

I’d like to highlight that I am certainly not in opposition to vaginal births. After all, that is the way nature intended, and had my body been able to do it safely and successfully, this would have undoubtedly been everyone’s favourite. I wanted to believe so badly that I would be able to, that my fears were unfounded and that everyone (myself included) would be so proud when I actually did it, but it just wasn’t to be.

I was offered counselling afterwards, which although I think is fantastic, I gratefully declined. I found the car crash labour a far more traumatising experience than the eventual c-section. I was just glad it was over and that my baby was here and healthy (though the poor little thing did have a Klingon head where she’d been desperately bearing down for days in a position where there wasn’t an exit!)

The advances of medical science mean that fewer women now die in childbirth. What’s humbling to keep in mind is that in times gone by, I could have easily been one of them had my c-section not taken place, and I know at least several other Mothers who could say the same for themselves and their baby.

I do not wish to implement blame. It is no one’s responsibility but my own that I chose not to trust my instincts and go with the delivery I had planned. What I’m bothered by, is that somehow, because my c-section wasn’t planned, the prejudice attached to the elective c-section no longer applies (or at least no longer to my face). Why did I have to go through the physical and emotional trauma that I did, risking my health and that of my baby, in order for the birth of my child to be deemed acceptable? I know this is by no means a universal opinion, and ultimately it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks…but it affected my pregnancy, and I’m perturbed by the idea of other mothers needlessly finding themselves in similar situation.

An advocate for c-section birth, I am not. Surgery of ANY kind should not be taken lightly, and if there’s a safer way for Mum and baby, then I’m all for it. Despite what some may say, it’s certainly not an ‘easy way out’ to endure major abdominal surgery, to then be responsible for a completely helpless little human whilst you attempt to recover. With any childbirth, I think we can all agree that there is no easy way out.

Whatever the way our babies come into this world, we are ALL amazing. Instead of focusing on our differences, let’s celebrate new life, let’s celebrate motherhood and let’s celebrate supporting one another in our unique journeys…it can be a rough old ride out there; us mummies need to stick together!

Did you have a c-section, what was your experience? Perhaps you had a c-section, but wished you had a vaginal birth, or vice versa? I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions!

Jo X

Chronicles of the After-Birth #4 – Breast Laid Plans

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When we found out we were expecting my darling little girl, I didn’t spend any time at all deliberating over whether or not I would choose to breastfeed, or worrying about if I would be able to. It’s not that I felt particularly strongly about it, I just assumed that I would breastfeed, and that was that. It was free, it was convenient, people are always going on about how great it is…why wouldn’t I?

I enrolled on a particular antenatal class, and there was a HUGE emphasis on breastfeeding. When we first received an email with the class schedule and I saw that there was an entire session dedicated solely to breastfeeding, my first reaction was ‘UGHH’ (that’s the sound of an almost 360-degree eye roll, to clarify). My second, was that I couldn’t quite figure out how there could possibly be that much to it, to fill out almost three.whole.hours. My community midwife had also plugged a separately run local breastfeeding workshop to me on more than one occasion during my routine appointments. Not really understanding what all the fuss was about, and being the furthest thing on this planet away from ‘Earth-Mama’, this all seemed a bit bonkers to me at the time.

I was incredibly fortunate that the expectations and preconceptions I’d had about breastfeeding mostly turned out to be true, and with relative ease, my daughter and I took to it well from the beginning. Don’t get me wrong though, it was no walk in the park.

My boobs looked like a couple of blue-streaked plasma balls with soggy, cracked liquorice torpedo nipples. It was a MASSIVE ball-ache finding time to express after feeds, plus clean and sterilise all the pump attachments ready for the next time, all the while looking after a newborn baby (famously not too keen on being put down or letting you get on with anything at all…who knew?!). I did not enjoy waking up in the night like a chance contestant in a most disconcerting version of a wet t-shirt contest, because my soggy breast pads had torn in half and were wringing themselves out all over me. Having to agonise over every one of my outfits based on the density of the print, absorbency of fabric, or how dark the colour was in case of ‘boob leakage’, was the fastest way to send me into a wardrobe-induced, postpartum meltdown, forcing me into choices that made me feel like a drab old peahen.

Such minor gripes are aside from the more obvious issues; the incredible soreness, the fact that the pressure was on me alone to come up with my baby’s nourishment (and 99% of the time, be the one to deliver it too!). I actually managed to get mastitis three times, which is seriously painful and makes you feel like utter crap, I definitely do not recommend it. In spite of all this, I carried on. Even though lots of people were encouraging me to give up. My daughter was healthy and gaining weight beautifully, and I felt it was my motherly duty to continue.

When my little girl reached about 4 months of age, we ran into bigger problems. It seemed like my supply had slowed down, and/or she wasn’t able to stay still long enough for a full feed anymore. She was insanely grumpy. If she was awake (so that’d be ALL the time, then!) she was whinging or screaming and wouldn’t be put down. Not our finest hour.

I tried everything I possibly could to try and increase my supply. I was pumping up to 6 times a day, drinking my weight in water, taking fancy Fenugreek supplements which made me smell like curry (they try and tell you the smell is maple syrup – do not believe the lies…it’s straight up curry). I was overdosing on oats and all other kinds of magic ‘lactation foods’, trying weird boob massages, meditation…you name it. I was absolutely determined to try every trick out there so I could continue, but none of it seemed to be making enough of a difference. My baby was still miserable, I was still stressed out to the max, and I could only pump a pitiful half ounce in 20 mins from both sides at best, unable to get a single let-down.

This went on for about a month, when after a desperate series of texts to my Mum at 6am basically telling her I was losing the plot, she appeared on my doorstop a few hours later to rescue/relieve me. She gently suggested we try a bottle (not wine for us, sadly. Though that probably would have done wonders for my cortisol levels…). Defeated but desperate, I made up a 4oz bottle of Hipp Organic, and my hungry baby glugged down the lot. Instantly (and when I say instantly, I mean INSTANTLY) she became a different child. Even though it was towards the end of the day when young babies are notorious for getting a grump on, she was smiling and playing and just such a pleasure to be around. It was a bittersweet breakthrough, and from there on it was a natural progression from exclusive breastfeeding, to combined feeding, to formula feeding.

Why, even though it was at worst, making me physically ill with a recurrent infection, unable to function and look after my baby, and at best giving my baby a measly morsel of what is considered first rate nourishment, was I so determined to carry on breastfeeding? Why did I put us both at such a disadvantage, all for the sake of doing things a certain way?

It’s rammed down every expectant and new mother’s throat that ‘breast is best’. Well, I have to disagree. It’s not always best. Mothers and their infants can run into all kinds of problems when breastfeeding, and whilst we are incredibly fortunate that there is a great deal of support to assist and guide us through our journey, some breastfeeding relationships never really take off, or like in our case, become increasingly impractical for whatever reason.

What happens if you can’t, or choose not to breastfeed? No one teaches you how to bottle-feed. Where are the bottle-feeding classes?! I had to fly by the seat of my pants after nearly 5 months of exclusive breastfeeding, basing what I was doing purely on reading the back of the formula box and by watching/listening to other formula-feeding Mums. Why is there such a reluctance to accept the alternative to breastfeeding, and provide information and support with this too?

Even at the clinic when getting the baby weighed, I was asked by health visitors ‘are you still breastfeeding?’. Not ‘how is she fed?’ or something less shaming for those of us who have to answer ‘no’. Little things like this only added to the immense pressure I was already experiencing. I felt as though I was failing my daughter, and as a mother, if I wasn’t giving her the widely-publicised and highly-commended ‘best’.

From my experience, a fed child is best. A healthy and happy child is best. A mother who is physically and mentally able to function is best. So what? We didn’t make it to the end of the first year as recommended. My daughter’s weight has never dropped below the centile she’s followed since birth. She’s hit every one of her milestones early, or on time. She is healthy, happy, gregarious, bright and strong… Despite being fed by, that dirty word…BOTTLE. It wasn’t by choice, but it’s worked out just fine. It could have saved us both a lot of tears had I felt supported enough to have made the decision sooner.

I just want to let other Mums out there who may be going through something similar know that it’s ok to deviate from your original plan, or what others tell you that you should be doing for your baby. If your baby is fed, you haven’t failed. If you need help, ask for it. You do what is best for YOU and YOUR baby, and whatever that is, be it breastfed or bottle, don’t ever feel that you need to apologise for it.

What struggles did you encounter on your breastfeeding journey? Was it cut short prematurely? Maybe you decided early on that you would formula feed, did you feel any kind of backlash for that? I know it’s a deeply personal and emotionally loaded subject, but if you feel able to, I would love for you to share your own breastfeeding stories, views and experiences.

Jo X