Birth Day.

Ah, my Birth Day.

Even when I was little I would always feel totally, overwhelmingly emotional about my Birthday. I always carried this expectation that it would be one way, and if it dared differ in the slightest then my world would feel like it had come crashing down. That my one day for it to be all about me had been ruined.

The selfishness of that isn’t lost on me, please know that I’m not a total twat and I am well aware of how precocious and self-centred that all sounds and it’s not something I’m proud of being like as a child.

Time has moved on and I’m no longer wearing puffball 80’s party dresses (except on very special occasions) and I would like to think I have a flash of clarity and understanding that, shocker, the whole world doesn’t revolve around me.

I think that there comes a point, especially when you’ve had children that you can see the beauty in small things, the delight in the quiet and the unexpected and today, on my birthday, all I wanted to do was go to a coffee shop, write for a bit, buy myself some knickers that make me feel nice and eat some cake. (I also wanted to see Taron Egerton in the new Elton John film but that felt like too may brilliant things in one day so I think I’ll extend the celebrations to the weekend. Yes, I like listening to metal music and Elton John and that’s Ok.)

It’s got me thinking about why I would freak out so much around my Birthday. I think it’s in some part to do with that feeling of reflection and mentally ticking off what I’ve achieved in the last year and it has to do with that other mental checklist we carry around of ‘I still want to/ buy/ be/ travel to/ achieve…’ and that’s the one that has tripped me up the most over the years.

When I was little I was desperate to own a pony, not in the fad or hobby sense but the waking and sleeping, obsessive, training like a jockey and up at the stables every day before school type desperation. Each year that passed, I still didn’t own my own pony. I had put aside the fact that I had been lucky enough to get lots of free rides on excellent horses, trained to teach younger riders and taken away on holidays to ride horses on cold windy beaches. All amazing things, all not good enough because I wanted my own horse. Then I got injured, quite badly, I had spinal treatment that meant wearing a brace, I started college and I discovered boys (horsey girls make that last discovery much later!) and the dream faded away and I realised that owning a horse wouldn’t have given me the freedom to travel in my gap year. Or to do a placement at a National Newspaper. Or time to appreciate that they cost money, and time, and dedication and sacrifice of nearly everything else in your life.

The next big thing to tick off the lift list was to write. I had to get my big break in writing and I had to do it straight out of uni. A journalism degree in hand and an enthusiasm to write for pennies if it meant getting published, I scoured the ads, emailed desperate requests for work experience and tried getting contacts who could offer me a break. And when my temporary job started to feel more permanent, and the emails being sent lessened I realised that the writing dream was stalling and the day job that paid the bills was now my priority. As that Birthday came around I was no longer calling myself a writer, I was working in the Public Sector and working for the greater good for lesser money than I’d imagined.

By 23 I wanted to be living in Paris. I’d spent my life dreaming of the day I would up sticks and move to the land of bohemian arts, dirty Euro Pop and decent café crème and I had the opportunity to work there for a few months on a job trial. But that Birthday was shared with a boyfriend who didn’t think that fitted with his plans. That it wasn’t what was in out future and so I declined because I was silly enough to give up on a dream for a boy, and I’m still kicking myself a little at that decision. (The job and the boy, for clarity.)

More recently in the last few years the big ticket item was babies. I wanted a baby desperately, thought I’d done everything to prepare myself, had a partner, bought a house, got married, was patient, and patient and with every birthday that passed I felt like I was hanging on to the last nugget of patience I had. Everyone around me was pregnant or a new Mum and it felt incredibly unfair.

And this year it’s properly struck me that with every birthday I’d cry and I’d whine and as an adult I’d mourn turning another year older and I had totally missed all those bloody wonderful, unplanned and unexpected things that had happened throughout the year.

I didn’t get a pony but I did meet some amazing horsey friends, learned confidence, resilience and bravery whilst flinging myself over jumps so high that I had no business trying to jump!

I hadn’t got the writing job but I’d also just come out the other side of a messy parental divorce, a break up and a loss of someone in a very short space of time and writers block had been medicated with some of the best nights out I’ve ever had. We called it the summer of love and it was. I loved my amazing friends, loved travelling Europe with my best buddy and returning to the security of a job that had real career prospects.

Babies. I wont pretend it was easy, or that IVF and fertility treatments were all fun and games but we laughed through it, we came out the other side stronger than we’d ever been, we saw vulnerable sides of each other and we could be there for each other through some of the darkest times using every single one of those marriage vows to pull us through. And at the end of it, we had our baby, the one meant for us, with his perfect (month early) timing, he entered our world as he was meant to.

Messy, unexpected and imperfectly perfect.

And that’s just what birthdays are going to be for me from now on. And I am totally happy with that.

Happy Birthday fellow Taureans! May your day be as lazy as you like, the cake to be as glutenous as you prefer and for the other signs to recognise we may be stubborn as hell but the most loyal you will find.

 

Sick note – working when your child is sick

It was inevitable that my son would be ill since starting with a childminder. Aside from a short bout of Hand, Foot and Mouth (he was fine, I was covered!) we’ve got off pretty lightly in terms of sickness considering toddlers are walking viruses.

Roll on this snotty, feverish, nasty coughing virus that’s going around and its left the babe with a temp of 41c at one point and being off from childcare until his fever had gone and he was feeling better.

Of course, my natural instinct is to want to bundle him up and snug him until he was better on the sofa but being back at work means it’s not that easy.

When my husband called and said K wasn’t well my immediate thought was worry, closely followed by ‘what an earth am I going to do about work?!’

Your child will always comes first, that goes without saying, but my mum guilt is up there and I was immediately thinking how many days recently is finished early, got in a little bit late or asked for annual leave.

None of these things should have an impact on whether you need to stay at home with your poorly child but for me it seems to affect the impression I give.

Being the last to arrive and the first to leave (one most days) I already feel like the ‘part-timer’ label is slapped to my forehead and calling in sick feels like a call-off contract. Did I use up my favours, did I need a bigger gap between the last ‘incident’ that meant I was having to deal with a childcare issue?

I try so hard not to separate myselves from my colleagues or feel like I’m any different just because I’m a working Mum but there’s certain differences that are hard to ignore.

Its like having 2 Managers; one at home and one at work and when I’m being stretched between the 2 and needing to be in two places at once it’s hard to feel like your position at work is ‘safe’ when the little boss is always your priority.

I have to mention that it’s not all on my shoulders. My husband is brilliant and will always step up to work from home or do the pick up if I’m working a late night but I have to balance it with the fact that he commutes into the city whereas I’m just round the corner.

A lot of this comes down to how I see the situation and how I think people are judging me at work. I’ve said before that I take my job very seriously and worked hard to get where I am and because of that it makes me question how I work as hard in less time and balance all the unexpected situations that come up.

I suppose it comes down to the good old saying that ‘it takes a village’ and it really does. It includes understanding, patient Managers and colleagues who understand (or remember) what’s it’s like to balance work and family life and keep all the balls in the air.

We’re in cold and flu season so I’m sure this won’t be the last bug of this winter but I hope that I can feel more at peace with my decisions and that I’m just doing the best I can and thank CBeebies for all the great work they do for us on sick days!

 

‘I wish I loved anything as much as my kid loves bubbles’ – big feelings for little people

You’ve got to be a proper scrooge I think to not have at least half a smile when you see a small person with bubbles or a balloon.

It’s like they’re seeing magic for the first time and everything they thought they new about the world in the short time they’ve been in it has changed. Like anything is possible and they might literally explode because they’re that excited.

I was talking to a friend the other day and we were laughing about how intense everything felt when we were teenagers. Missing a party because you were grounded, not getting a reply on MSN from that boy you were obsessed with even though he’s showing as ‘online’, or worse, falling out with your best friend and your whole world turning upside down even if it only lasted about 2 lessons before you made up again. It was all sooo intense I felt like I was living in an episode of Dawson’s creek minus the smug, professor level language.

I think it’s experiencing love and loss and excitement for things for the first time that it’s so overwhelming you think your heart might explode (or break, literally into 1000 pieces). I used to feel excitement that literally made my body fizz and meant I couldn’t hear a word most of my teachers were saying I was just desperate to get out of lessons and chat to my friends.

It’s so intense it feels like you’ll never be that excited or happy again when in fact, the next time is literally just around the corner. You feel things so deeply and with such raw, innocent emotion and because you’ve probably not seen things from a mature point of view you experience life without any of the cynicism or negativity that comes with being an adult. You feel like there’s not another person on the planet that’s ever felt the way you do, love someone as much or hurt as bad and only a blink 182 song can sum up what you’re going through.

That rollercoaster of emotions is what I’m starting see in K now that he’s a toddler (minus the brutal teen breakuos obv) and I want to just bottle up all these emotions for him so he gets to experience them all over again when he’s older.

He loves things hard; us, the cat, his family (especially his grandparents), food and giggling and footballs more than us I sometimes think.

He laughs and (happy) screams like it’s the funniest thing he’s ever seen and cries so hard i worry that his little heart can’t take it. But I know it’s all part of getting older and I love seeing how he expresses his emotions and let’s us know what he’s thinking even if he can’t tell us yet. It’s dramatic and hilarious and over the top but it’s as if his body is too little for these big feelings he’s now feeling.

He’s brave and reckless and when he falls or bumps himself I see him upset but there’s a look in his eye which I know means he’ll go back and do the same thing again.

And as per the title of this post (respectfully sort of stolen from ‘knocked up’) when he sees bubbles I look at him and I can’t belive I made him. That I had someone so happy and silly and loud and beautiful that can see something so simple and believe that it is magic. ‘Bubble’ was one of his first proper words. It’s his favourite game and his happy place. Every time he sees them flying up in the air he stares open mouthed looking around and on the rare occasions he manages to touch one he is literally beside himself with joy.

I can remember getting older and starting to feel irritated by Disney plotlines that I’d once memorised and spent hours rewinding on video and making my brother watch with me. They seem ridiculous now, and I see flaws in the characters that weren’t there before. And I know it’s because being an adult has made me wary and cynical and practical and my adult brain tells me that things rarely work out that well.

But for my little hurricane, the way his face literally lit up when he saw the characters spinning around in the Greatest Showman I could see he genuinely believes in magic, they were real to him and he was frozen taking in every move and note. I hope that feeling stays with him for as long as possible. When I’m blowing bubbles in the garden for the 3rd time that day and he’s squealing and shouting I feel like I’m little again too and there’s magic in the air. He is my tonic to the grown up world and we may sound silly and whimsical and infact this whole post is not who I’ve been for the last year but he’s changed me and made me see things through his eyes and it’s a very happy place to be.

Parenting without rules – figuring out my parenting style

I know I’m not the only person who thought they were sure what kind of parent they’d be when their bump became a real live human.

I read a lot about Parenting during the first few brutal months of having a new born. I’m not going to sugar coat it because that wouldn’t be the truth but after a traumatic early birth, pre-eclampsia and hypertension and undiagnosed reflux we didn’t have the smoothest start so I turned to reading lots about how to parent, how to raise a well behaved baby and how to ensure they were learning and experiencing everything they needed to at each stage of their development.

It gave me a lot of confidence to read about when to approach ‘sleep training’ (advice I chucked out of the window as it didn’t work for us), how to crack baby led weaning and how to encourage your baby’s fine motor skills. That is until I realised that babies, well certainly my baby, didn’t follow all of the books.

We missed most of the milestones for the 1 year health visitor check, as I knew we we would. He wasn’t crawling or standing and definitely not walking. He couldn’t cruise nor did he hand over toys when he was asked – something he’s still not keen on doing now..

When the Health Visitor said she’d come back to visit us in 8 weeks it just left me feeling awful. I panicked why he wasn’t following the trend or the rules and Googled the crap out of delayed development and how to encourage your baby which ended up leaving both of us frustrated.

In our case we were grateful that there wasn’t a diagnosed reason for his delays but he was just doing things in his own time and I needed to stop comparing him to everyone else.

All my reading didn’t help his behaviour. He loves to eat and chat (all day every day, if hes not eating then he is talking) but the times we parked his pram in a cafe he would cry inconsolably until he could sit up at the table with us. If he was taken somewhere, IKEA for example, it wasn’t enough to just be pushed around in the pram (we’d get the pencil move where they can slide out the bottom!), he wanted to touch things up close and see how they worked.

It was my Mum who reminded me that I’d been in a panic months before because he’d seemed so distant and uninterested in things around him but now my excitable, happy, sassy little babe was tearing around the fake Swedish kitchen trying to work out how the secret cupboards opened.

I find the psychology of children really interesting and love to read about how people parent and the different ways they’re encouraging their children to develop and I think I’ve ended up taking a bit of lots of different styles and then making it up in between, and I’m cool with that.

He’s confident, inquisitive, stubborn and a joker and by trying to stop him from exploring and communicating and joining in with the world around him I feel like I’m going against his natural desire to learn, in his way. Each day I feel like I’m understanding him a bit better and although we don’t tolerate innapropriate or dangerous behaviour I know he’s a baby still and almost every time it’s because he doesn’t understand and occasionally it’s because he genuinely believes he can get a laugh out of anyone.

He just doesn’t have the concentration or the desire to sit and read books with me anymore, there’s too much to see around him and I have to get over it. He’ll play in the mud and put leaves in his mouth and constantly want to chat to whoever is (un)lucky to sit next to us in a cafe now and I have to put aside my worries of what other people might think and remind myself that this is him. He’s a hurricane but he’s learning new things every time we go out and do something.

It’s come as a little bit of a surprise to me how we’ve approached discipline, but I’m using that word lightly as I don’t really believe you can truly discipline a child at his age (17 months) because they just don’t understand social decency and can’t understand why we think their behaviour is wrong.

I’ve said to family and friends that we don’t shout at K. It’s not because we’re being all hands off or because we think he doesn’t need to learn how to behave but it just doesn’t sit right with us and im not even sure i can totally explain why. He’s a happy and confident baby and most of the time we can either show him how to do something or distract him from something he shouldn’t be doing but raised voices, even if its not ours and we’ve just overheard someone else really affects him. He goes very quiet and pulls a face like he doesn’t understand what’s happening and my instincts are telling me that’s not the right way to go with him, not yet anyway.

He understands more and more each day which is why until I know I can explain it I want to approach things in a different way.

Not everyone has agreed with this which again, I’m cool with, because we all parent differently and i respect that. We may have had a totally different approach with another child and things may totally change when he hits the 2’s (which I’m going to try and find the ‘not so terrible’ in) and so will how we parent probably.

I suppose that I see know that parenting is just as much about us as parents as it is about our babies and it’s amazing that there’s so much available to learn about what to do and how we can approach every stage. I don’t think I fit into any parenting style box and despite my no shouting rule we still feed him Pom Bears occasionally and he has a penchant for the stop, drop and roll if everything has got a bit too much but we are just powering through like everyone else is.

If I think back to naive, glassy eyed pregnant me i have to smile because we may not have cracked baby yoga like I thought we would but my baby can now play air guitar like a pro so I’ll take that win!

Working Mum made of glass

I’ve been back from maternity leave for nearly 6 months now, working part time, 3 days a week on a job share with an amazing Mum who likes food and a giggle as much as I do. I totally lucked out there! (probably should stop telling people I ‘just’ had a baby though..ha!)

If I was to describe what I was like at work prior to having a baby I’d say I was confident, straight talking, a chatterbox and very ambitious. I worked hard to get to my position and was always looking for the next opportunity to sink my teeth into. I loved my job and even when we started fertility treatment it was always nice to get back to some normality in the office and crack on with my head down.

Since coming back after a year off I’m not just a new woman in terms of being a Mum but I feel so much more sensitive to things that previously I probably wouldn’t have even noticed or would have been water off a ducks back for me. Where as before I’d happily challenge, debate, even argue my point where I thought it needed saying I’m so much more aware of how I come across to others.

If I’m busy I second guess whether it’s coming across as not handling things, if I challenge I wonder if it’s unjustified because I only work 3 days a week and when I would normally speak my mind without hesitation (mostly when i was sure I was right) I now hold back because I remember how lucky I am to have been able to keep my job by working flexibly.

I feel so much more vulnerable, like people can see straight through me now, when im tired or stressed, I’m feel like I’m more open to people’s potential criticism and more under pressure to keep on top of things. Especially on a Thursday when I wave goodbye to my colleagues at 4pm wishing them a good weekend when they all have another day and an hour to go.

It’s not all coffee breaks, nice lunches and lazy mornings working part time, especially when my work days are long and I come straight back home to start the evening routine with the babe. Again, I’m not complaining but I feel so much more on show now, like my performance is being more closely monitored and that there’s no room and especially no time for mistakes.

I wish I had some more of my old sass, my unwavering confidence (fake it till you make it was my go to style) and where I’ve got buckets more confidence as a Mum I feel I’ve lost some of it at work and I hate it.

A lot of these worries are constructed myseld, I know that, but I think your priorities change as well as your options and that means most days you get the job done and nothing more. And that should be enough. But I don’t think it is for me and I want to feel like I’m moving forward when I’m at work and whether it’s training, volunteering for some new projects or just pitching a new idea I need to get my vibe back and accept that that will take some time.

P.M.A – Positive Mumming Ahead..

I posted on Insta stories this week about how after over a year of feeling like I was stuck in this anxious, stressed and overwhelmed rut that I’d found some really positive and real ways to turn it around.

When I feel at my most anxious my thoughts have already done a runner and have reached the worst conclusion so now, with the help of a trained therapist and a lot of reading up on CBT and trains of thought I’m making a real effort to stop and think about things  and how I respond and react to them.

Its not been easy, as anyone with PND, anxiety or PTSD will know but it can and does make a huge diff if you can crack it. At least it has for me thank goodness. I know I can feel overwhelmed and that often there are really simple things I need to tick off just to stop myself laying I  bed wide awake panicking about when I’ll do them.

I’ve started the Do It Like A Mother Mothering Mindset Course and it’s be a  a total game changer. I stop and breath and think and consider and sometimes now, very occasionally, can laugh when it seems like everything has gone wrong before I’ve even left the house in the morning.

I’ve had  following The Organised Mum method online and despite the first few weeks of de-cluttering being soul destroying I’m pleased to say I feel a little bit more of a tidyer person.

I’ve started to look at how I use social media, who I follow, what I get involved in and how I let it affect me and if it doesn’t feel like it’s adding value or it’s making me feel crappy then I just close it down.

One of the best things I’ve found is go keep using a bullet journal. I know there was a craze when everyone seemed to be doing this but I’ve picked it back up, noted down a few thoughts everyday and tried to leave it on the page. Theres a few gratitude, joy type journals which I’m a total sucker for you. They really help to force me to think through things and see that they’re actually not so bad.

I’ve always rolled my eyes at the suggested that exercise could actually make me feel better because when you’re anxious or extremely down you’re also probably really tired and the last thing you want to do is work out. I still have days where I’m so tired I could cry but I know I feel a rush or something good when I’ve done some exercise, even if it’s a long walk with the buggy. (I’m not going to start beating myself up if I miss a week or two though).

Finally I think the biggest thing I’ve tried to do is see the positives in every day as well as letting the shit go. There’s no one who could critique my parenting skills more than I do and I know that I’m only doing my best and my boy is smiling most of the time so I consider that as we’re doing fine.

Positive Mental Attitude for Positive Mumming Ahead.

My body has changed, my body is amazing

Creams, oils, lotions, you name it, I used it. I really enjoyed massaging by bump; it made me feel more connected to my baby and I’m sure it relaxed her, I didn’t feel her moving around so much when I got into bed at night, it sent her to sleep. I must add that this is not a sign that your baby will sleep well at night time, as she certainly does not! My belly was well and truly prepped no stretch marks for me!

So, my bump was growling nicely but my boobs were not… I thought that bigger boobs were going to be a perk of pregnancy.  I’ve always had small boobs and this was my chance to have a decent cup size, where were they? I’d heard that the boob growth spurt was one of the first signs of pregnancy, unfortunately not for me. Just the one bump it is then!

I didn’t gain that much weigh during pregnancy, I should of weighed myself towards the end but never got round to it, shame really, I would of liked to know how much extra weight I was carrying around. I was all bump, I didn’t think it could get much bigger! Friends and family were convinced I was having a boy because of the old wives tales about the way you carry and the shape of your body. I wasn’t convinced; I had a feeling that it was a girl in there.

My beautiful baby girl was born via emergency C-section, she was breech and unfortunately for us it went undetected until it was too late, 10 centimetres dilated at home too late! We were both absolutely fine; it was just one of thise things. I was gutted, I’d got so far and was so ready, I felt robbed as my body was responding so well to labour, but obviously we had to do the safest thing.

It feels very strange having an empty belly, you have your body back but you miss it just being the two of you, those special movements, hiccups and stretches that only a mother and their unborn child experience. She was here and other people could now hold her and cuddle her and walk around with her, as lovely as that was I wished that I gave my bump a few extra cuddles and cherished those moments a little more. My belly felt amazingly soft after being solid for that last few months, like a deflated balloon.

I could see my lady bits again and when I stood up I could see my toes!  They were freshly painted by my other half only a few days before. It was a good effort all things considered; I didn’t want to go into hospital to have my baby with horrible half painted toe nails. Is that normal?!

I found it really difficult to look at my healing stomach over the coming days. I’m not sure why. I don’t know if I was scared to see the aftermath or squeamish to see the stiches or if it was the disappointment of having a caesarean that I was reminded of every time I looked in the mirror. It took a while but I gradually realised that this scar was a reminder that my body created and grew a tiny human being, tiny fingers and toes, arms and legs, a brain, a healthy beating heart. She was lifted from my body and into my arms from this very place. It still makes me emotional thinking about it, sometimes I do take a minute when I get out of the shower just to appreciate what this body is capable of. Amazing!

I decided that I wanted to try and breastfeed for as long as I felt I could. I was lucky enough to be able to; I know that’s not the case for every new mum so I felt extremely thankful when my milk followed the early colostrum. Here they come, here are the boobs I had been expecting and blimey had they come! Following my C-section I struggled to get about for the first couple of weeks and I was in desperate need for some nursing bras. This was a job for Super Daddy! Off he went to Mother care after a quick brief and back he came with my nursing hammocks. I think he also picked up maternity pads, breast pads, and a breast pump! The shop assistants must have really felt for him having to buy all these things on his own! He didn’t care he just did it!

When I stopped breastfeeding my boobs obviously departed, I was sad to see them go, even if one was bigger than the other! I was left with what I now call ‘used teabags’. Not the most flattering term, I know, but it describes them well! Used they certainly were, but they produced milk that fed my tiny baby and helped nourish her to grow, how amazing is that. Not only did they feed my baby they responded when she was hungry and knew how much milk to produce. They often got a bit over excited and threatened to flood the house but overall these used tea bags are remarkable!

So, no one told me that when you use all these lotions and oils to prevent stretch marks that you’re supposed to use them all over your body, not just your bump! I just didn’t really think about it, I hope I’m not the only one that assumed they were just for bump :-/ My belly is stretch mark free; although I’m not sure how big a part the creams actually play in this. My boobs and thighs however had fallen victim to the dreaded stripes. After time and reflection, I believe that I have earned my stripes, every single one of them. Some people get medals or trophies in life, us mummies get stripes and they are another reminder that this body made and carried a tiny life. A-ma-zing!

15 months in and I now know that my body isn’t going completely back to what it was before, I mean, I was no Pamela Anderson but it looks different now. It’s a different shape and I have a mum tum and there is a little pouch left from my little miracle scar. My wardrobe has been tweaked and dresses that once flattered my figure now don’t. It’s a good excuse to go shopping!  I have my stripes and I have my beautiful daughter and I feel blessed every single day.

My body has changed, my body is amazing.