Friday, 17 October 2014

Lesson 32: No place I'd rather be?

At home, with my wonderful boys. Taking care of them. Looking after our home. Creating memories. Where I belong.

But sometimes, I'd rather be anywhere else.

When the baby has been screaming for over an hour and the toddler is throwing objects at my head and/or refusing to put his shoes on, and I am feeling REALLY RATHER FUCKING SHOUTY...well, on those days I'd quite like to step out of the front door and keep on walking. 

I want out. 

They say you discover things 'about yourself' when you become a parent. Well, I have mostly discovered that I have no patience. Zero. None whatsoever. My fuse is SHORT. 

I can't stand the constant demands. And mess. And noise. I recently embarked on a rare child-free supermarket trip and found myself sat in Lidl's car park with the engine turned off, smiling from ear to ear because for the first time in days nobody was shouting or whinging at me. Jesus Christ it was peaceful. I sat there in silence for ten minutes, staring at my windscreen and wondering when Lidl's car park on Saturday at 11am became the fucking highlight of my week.

I am bored at home. I read an article recently criticising mums like me. How dreadful to say your children bore you. Except that's not what I'm saying at all. It's not my children I find boring. It's the situation. My boys are hilarious and cute and smart and lovely (sometimes). But it is bloody hard work. And parts of it have pushed me to breaking point. Not the endless washing and nappies and feeds and battles over nap times (though all of these things are challenging). The hardest part is the mental torment that accompanies twelve hours of whinging, and discussions limited to 'the kids,' and seventy seven trips to the park in as many days. I don't really like other people's children to be honest. They always have runny noses.

I have discovered that I am ironically least 'at home' whilst I'm at home, and happier in the work environment. I like going to work. Nine months 'off' (yeah right) is not a pleasing prospect. Perhaps that is why I chose to take six months maternity leave again and have subsequently further reduced this to five months. The drop to Statutory Maternity Pay is not enough for us to scrape by on for nine months, but for me the real motive for returning is non-financial. Five months is the maximum I can manage without cracking. And even that is quite possibly too long.

At Baby Two's eight week check, the doctor asked the following:
'How are you feeling? Are you enjoying it?

I replied, as I always do, with my honest thoughts:
'A newborn and a toddler? It's not the most fun I've ever had. In fact, I'd rate it pretty low on the enjoyment scale.'

Cue a nervous look at the chart to see if this answer is listed under PND warning signs. 

I'm not depressed. This is not PND. This is just fish out of water syndrome. I'm the fish, work is my water, and maternity leave is an uncomfortable drought. 

But whilst we are increasingly encouraged to talk to one another about our mental health, it doesn't ever seem acceptable to share your true feelings about life at home with children. Unless, of course, your feelings match the general consensus that the first year is magical and maternity leave must be treasured. I am regrettably too honest, and this is often met with looks of surprise and, I hate to say it, disgust. 

Beautiful boys, but it's not all rainbows and smiles
There are moments I treasure. Truly there are. But if you ask me how I find being at home with my wonderful babies I will tell you the truth. 


At work, where I exist outside of breastfeeding duties and nappies and snack time and smiley fucking baby groups :-) :-) :-) :-)

At work, where I look forward to seeing my boys because I have not spent every waking minute with them. Where weekends and non-work days are cherished more because they do not represent yet another patience-testing Groundhog Day. 

At work, where my cleavage remains sick-free and I can have a hot cup of tea.

Sure there are mums who will take a year off. There are mums who will never go back to work. There are mums who will take no more than one month off before returning full time. I respect them all. 

'A happy mum is a happy home' I once read. A bit fucking selfish I thought...but it does make some sense to me now. Turns out a working mum is a happy home for us. 

Lesson 32: 'where you belong' cannot be dictated by other people. The needs of your children should come first, of course they should, but not to the exclusion of your happiness. If you want to stay at home, and can, you should. If you don't want to stay at home, and don't have to, you shouldn't.

'You won't get this time again' is a dead cert. Make it a happy time.

The Unmumsy Mum

Friday, 10 October 2014

Lesson 31: 'Breast is best' but not always for mum

I have blogged about the pressure on women to breastfeed before. I breastfed Boy One for three months, and I am breastfeeding Boy Two (now 4 weeks in). I also expressed for a number of weeks, and formula fed for a number of months, so I hope I am at liberty to comment...

In my humble opinion, whilst breastfeeding remains wonderful, it is significantly harder than bottle feeding. I am not disputing the health benefits for both mother and baby. Nor am I denying the convenience of breastfeeding (milk on tap at the right temperature, no sterilising bottles, bloody marvellous). 

I have, however, been once again reminded about the truly relentless nature of feeding a newborn. Once again, I am left dubious as to whether it is worth the hassle (*hides from the glare of breastfeeding peer counsellors*). 

I am, of course, aware that feeding of any kind is difficult when it comes to those first few weeks. But nothing is quite as draining (both physically and emotionally) as having a small human welded to your nipples 24 hours a day. 

All other activity is put on hold to sit feeding the child, sometimes for hours at a time, sometimes with no more than half an hour between feeds. 

Routines are glorious once they are established, but I am a great believer in feeding on demand for the first few weeks at least. On demand does what it says on the tin. You are a slave to a breast-hungry monster who never seems to want a cuddle without having a nibble. 'Look for cues to indicate baby is hungry' they say. Well he tries to eat my neck/shoulder/hair if I attempt a cuddle and often cries until he is attached, so we are going with his 'cues.' I swear he is often over feeding, but as I can't truly monitor how much milk he is getting WHO KNOWS? 

At times it is difficult to do anything else. Good luck negotiating the washing and shopping 'between feeds' when the illusive 'between' time is non-existent. The health visitor advised I need to encourage him to feed for longer. I should, she explained, view each feed as his opportunity to have a three-course meal. Breast one should be his starter and main (to allow for two 'let downs') and if he finishes those, I should offer the second breast 'as dessert.' Fucking marvellous - he gets ten feasts every day and I am lucky to finish a meal unless it has been cut into fork-sized chunks by my other half. Tickle his feet to keep him going. Change his nappy 'between courses'. The palava rolls on.

You are a prisoner on your own sofa. This may sound nice, but you can forget having time to play with any of your other children, unless of course by 'play' you mean read them a book next to you as you feed. I miss spending quality time with my eldest. When family members come round to entertain him I often think how much I would like to take him to the park or to the shops, and leave my newest boy with one of the many willing volunteers for an hour or two, complete with a bottle. I simply do not have the time to express this time around. Instead, my precious time with Boy One is invariably cut short by the phrase of doom 'I think he's hungry again.' Of course he bloody is. 

My wonderful husband was at home with me for our boy's first four weeks. I was so very lucky in that respect - his support as ever remains a godsend. But we are both left frustrated when his willingness to help is rendered pointless by the simple fact that he cannot feed the baby

And then there is the feeding itself. No disputing the ease of getting a boob out to comfort a screaming child. Anytime, any place, anywhere. 

But what if you become fed up with getting them out? Heaven forbid you might want to wear something which doesn't have a button-down front. Or a 'secret' feeding panel (I can spot a JoJo nursing top a mile off, there is no secret). 

I have no shame in feeding in public. My boobs are doing their job, I get that. But the constant muslin-over-the-shoulder-buttoning-down-of-outfit-to-feed whilst also attempting to eat your own food/play with the toddler at the park/have coffee with friends does take its toll. 

As does adjusting breast pads to avoid wet T-Shirt patches and having to wear a bra day and night. After 40 weeks gestation there is relief at being master of your own body again. Except with breastfeeding, the complete child body dominance lingers - little or no alcohol, limited caffeine, avoiding foods that can make the baby agitated or windy. 

It takes commitment. And patience. Which runs in short supply after two-hourly night feeds and an inability to have five minutes to yourself. 

All of the above assumes the baby is feeding well, that you have adequate milk supply, your nipples remain crack free and you are not on the verge of mastitis. I have met women so desperate to continue breastfeeding they have cried through the sheer pain of feeds. They have continued with bleeding nipples in total depression at the feeding situation, because the thought of 'giving up' is somehow worse. Such cases always lead me to ponder 'surely, it cannot be worth it?'

Well I don't think it is worth it. 

For me, this time, it is still early days. I guess we are not in any kind of feed and sleep cycle yet. But if the relentless one to two hourly feeds continue for much longer I know exactly what to do. I will march on down to Boots, grab a tub of Aptamil, rest easy in the knowledge he has had a decent 5ozs and GET ON WITH MY LIFE. 

Lesson 30: breastfeeding is bloody hard work. You will be talked out of bottle feeding by any number of health professionals, but you don't get a medal for 'sticking at it'. Don't be a hero. 

Sometimes, it doesn't work out.

Sometimes, the wellbeing of the whole family improves with the switch to bottles. 

Sometimes, Mums deserve the 'best' option too. 

The Unmumsy Mum

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Lesson 30: Things 'down below' and other annoying euphemisms

Euphemisms for the sake of preserving modesty get right on my nerves. 

I am a fan of calling a spade a spade. 

The world of the newborn baby is full of these pointless alternative words and phrases, and I have listed a few of my 'favourites' observed during recent home visits from the midwife and health visitor.

Down below
'And how is everything' *lowers voice* 'down below?' they ask. 

Below where? Oh. You mean down there (equally annoying). 

What is wrong with vagina. Is that so offensive? 

Vagina vagina vagina

I would find it quite refreshing to simply be asked 'how's your vagina doing?' It's clearly not a time for shyness, given that a baby just emerged from down there (*sneers*). 

Ones and Twos
Actually this goes for all toilet related euphemisms. 'Are you managing to go to the toilet?' *completes checklist in maternity notes* 'Ones and twos?

Ones and twos?! FFS. What happened to wees and poos? Yes I'm managing to wee and poo, thanks for asking. 

Granted, it might be slightly unnerving if the midwife pottered in and asked 'have you done a shit and how's the vagina?' but at least we'd all know where we stand. Of course I wouldn't really expect her to say shit, but we could at least find a middle ground. We talk openly about poo with our potty-training youngsters for god's sake, and I am not a child. 

This one isn't a euphemism, but rather the annoying habit that health professionals have of abbreviating the growing foetus and/or new child simply to 'baby.' I recognise that this is in no way offensive, but god how it annoys me.

'Shall we check baby's heartbeat?'
'How is baby feeding?'
'Make sure baby gets a full mouthful of breast.'

It's THE baby. Please bring back use of the definite article. Or better, once said 'baby' arrives he or she usually has an actual name. Baby indeed. 

'Baby' (grrr) 
Over to you...
Are there any other commonly used euphemisms you can think of to add to this list of annoyances? 

The Unmumsy Mum

Monday, 6 October 2014

Lesson 29: Toddlers copy what you f***ing say

There is nothing worse than potty-mouthed children.

When Child One was born, The Husband and I were adamant we would curb our use of foul language and raise a polite and politically correct small human. How hard could it be? It's not as if we are common or anything, we don't swear that much...

Two and a half years in, and I am not proud to report that we are failing miserably.  

Phrases my toddler has repeated, to date, include: 
'Oh shit'
'For fuck's sake'
'Fat bum'
and the low point of our existence as parents: 'You're fucking joking.'

The latter, I am relieved to update you, was stamped out then and there when we looked quizzically at said child's declaration of 'you're fucking joking' and asked if he meant 'the Froggy's croaking.' He was delighted with this new expression, and continues to repeat it. At random. Thank The Lord for the Froggy and his croaking. 

This same ill fated child, when he asked his mother where her willy was, was told 'girls have fannies instead.' (In my defence, I was caught off guard). He now potters around pointing out who has a willy and who has a fanny (with impressive accuracy). Sometimes he asks those he is in the company of which of the two 'bits' they are in possession of. Just last week our childminder had to let the parents of a lovely (and non-sweary) little girl know that she might repeat 'willy' and 'fanny' at home after our son talked at some length about their differences all day. Shame on us for having set in motion a wave of toddler corruption.

Then there was that incident with the Bristish Gas man. A hunkier than average chap turned up to service the boiler. Amidst the small talk and tea-making (the hunky ones always get a biscuit), my toddler loudly declared 'look Mummy, he's a MAN. Not got a fanny. Nope. No fanny.' Cue nervous laugher all round and a hasty exit. 

We have, for now, ignored and stamped out the most severe of the naughty word chatter. We are having to let 'for god's sake,' 'oh god' and 'fat bum' go as the lesser of many possible evils.

And we are trying. How we are trying to watch what we say. But he picks things up having heard them just once. Sometimes they lie dormant for days and then pop out unexpectedly; usually at crowded social functions. He remembers. I once tentatively asked him where he had heard 'fuck's sake, man!' and he simply replied 'when the traffic light went red.' I wonder how old he will have to be before we can do what my parents did, and maintain that adults are allowed to use special 'Car Language.' 

Lesson 29: Upon reflection, it turns out we are pretty common after all. Kids repeat everything. Be f***ing careful what you say. 

The Unmumsy Mum

Lesson 28: The Easier Second Birth (That Wasn't)

I don't know why I had ever banked on labour being a breeze second time around. The second pregnancy was worse than the first one - perhaps I should have taken this as a sign of things to come...

Instead, I bought into the whole 'it will be so much quicker/easier' myth and merrily planned the water birth I had missed out on with Boy One. The complications of pre-eclampsia first time round had ironically made for a relatively positive labour experience for me. Despite the world and his wife joining us in the room and fretting over my ever increasing blood pressure, things progressed as they should and baby Henry arrived naturally without too much trauma. Contractions remained bearable, I had an epidural somewhere in the middle (GLORIOUS) and despite it having worn off at the all-important pushing stage I was as relaxed as anyone could be whilst trying to negotiate a small person out of there

I came out of hospital in February 2012 maintaining that childbirth was, actually, not that bad. The six months of raising a crying monster that followed put me off trying again for a good 18 months, but at no point did the whole birth experience deter me from having another one. 'If anything,' I told people, 'that's the easy bit!' 

Well I am eating my words now. Words well and truly devoured. Three weeks ago I gave birth to my second bundle of baby boy goodness and it was not the breezy repetition of Birth One I had anticipated. 

I am not writing this as a horror story. It was not, by any means, a horrific experience. Baby Jude arrived naturally, healthy, and we left hospital less than 5 hours later. There was no risk of fitting due to hypertensive crisis this time. On paper, all went well. 

At the hospital, before shit got real
But JESUS CHRIST it was not an easy labour. In contrast to the calm and collected woman from Birth One, I became hysterical then withdrawn, I felt panicked and I was completely and utterly out of control. Quite frankly, I DID NOT COPE. 

Contrary to the suggestion by the midwife that we would 'have this baby out in no time,' the birth of Boy Two was longer (23 hours), more painful (I genuinely thought the contractions were killing me at one point!) and less straight forward than that of Boy One. 

I was mis-sold. 

I sploshed into the birthing pool with long awaited anticipation but lasted less than an hour before demanding 'SOMETHING THAT WORKS.' Seriously, I have heard nothing but rave reviews about the benefits of the water but when it came to it, the most pain I had ever encountered was not much alleviated by a giant bath. 

I puffed on gas and air, felt dizzy and light headed, and then discarded the mouthpiece in a rage, declaring 'well this is shit.'

I wanted an epidural. 

I was talked out of an epidural.

Now I understand the rationale for this. The wonderful (and bloody patient) midwife explained that the baby could arrive in just an hour or two. The epidural might slow things. It might lead to an unnecessary stay in hospital the following day. My husband agreed - I had probably just reached 'The Wall' and our boy would be with us in no time. As it turned out, I would be in agony for a further SEVEN hours. I should have demanded that epidural. Every centimetre of my body was crying out for it.

Diamorphine arrived instead. I had two doses of that. What a terrible idea. Pain only marginally relieved, I became sleepy and unresponsive. 

I was fucking exhausted. Falling to sleep (sat up) in between each contraction, I moaned like a wounded animal. At one stage, my better half informs me, I refused to communicate for several hours and sat silently rocking on the bed. I mean, WTF? 

When my responses eventually came they were abrupt and panicked. Progress had slowed and contractions were wearing off due to low blood sugar levels. 

I needed a sugary drink, by all accounts.

I refused the sugary drink. 

At 10cm dilated I refused to push (yes really). I went on the most pointless strike of my life. I simply would not be participating any further in the birth of my son, thank you very much.

Everyone became concerned. Drugs were administered to strengthen contractions and force me to finish what nature had started. The midwife had a stern word. 

At 3am I half-heartedly started pushing. At 5:56am we had a baby. 

And then you expect the euphoric post-labour cuddle. Which I got (a momentary delight) before it became apparent that the placenta was not going to deliver. Fucking marvellous. There were talks of spinals and theatre and several attempts to 'encourage' it were made before one doctor succeeded where the others had failed. I am not going to describe how this happened, but the adjective used by my husband upon reflection of what he had witnessed was 'brutal', so you probably get the picture. 

And then it was over.

At 11am, after a delightful round of tea and toast and a hot shower, we left the hospital and our life as a newly extended family of four began.

Of course it was all worth it. But I am still slightly in shock at just how bad I found things this time. 

Lesson 29: Every birth is different, and women behave differently not only to each other but also to themselves in differing situations. 'Easier second time' is not always the case. In this instance, that turned out to be utter bullshit. certificate is given or eternal glory granted for a drug-free birth. If you think you fancy going straight for the hard stuff JUST DO IT. 

The Unmumsy Mum