Sunday, 27 May 2012

Calling it a Day

It makes me sad that there are so many people out there who want to judge the way we parent, who feel the need to comment, "advise" or simply to thrust their ideal world at you as a poignant reminder of your failings.

Some days it feels like there is no more controversial parenting topic than breastfeeding. From the breastfeeding zealots to the breastfeeding specialists to the health visitors, there is a lot of pressure to feed your baby this way. I don't disagree that breastfeeding gives your little ones a great start in life. But breastfeeding is just one piece of the jigsaw and every parent needs to look at the big picture of what is right for their child, not just feeding in isolation.
I have breastfed Little Monster almost exclusively for 3 months and have now made the decision to stop. There are lots of women who manage more than that and I take my hat off to every one of them. I have done a lot of soul searching about this because I really did want to feed for longer but, in the end, the other pieces of the jigsaw didn't fit.

When Little Monster was first born, I had issues with overactive letdown. It made feeding quite difficult sometimes. Little Monster would break off choking or get bad gas. We started to get past this and then I got a stomach bug for a few days. I was so off my food that my supply was badly affected and it never recovered. After that, I would spend every day stressing about eating and drinking enough and, despite that, the early evening feeds became really difficult. Little Monster wasn't getting enough milk and he was difficult to settle. My anxiety about this was a contributor to my insomnia.

So for all the right reasons I decided to call it a day. In our big picture, I can be a better mum to Little Monster by stopping and, honestly, he seems happier for it.

I know that I have been and will be judged for my decision. Our breastfeeding specialist reacted with a 'hmm' and tried to hide a disapproving look. Actually, it would have been nice to get some support with stopping; physically and emotionally it's not that easy to do.

Do I think I made the right decision? Yes. Am I just a little bit sad? Absolutely.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Nature's Play Gym

Ah, how much better life looks when it's 25 degrees and sunny outside. I mean, this is what maternity leave was made for surely? Balmy summer days, relaxing with a glass of vino over a late lunch with the other yummy mummies while our perfect children play nicely together, their happy laughter a wonderful backdrop to a mellow summer's day. Look, can you see little Johnny and little Rosie sharing toys?

Alright, alright, perhaps mummy meet-ups are a little more milk and cookies than wine and olives. And we can probably trade the happy laughter for sporadic screaming. But still, sun does make everything better.

Today it made things better by allowing Little Monster and I to walk to baby massage. And to take a detour via the ice cream shop on the way home. The sunshine made all the baby massage mums optimistic that we're not really in for a wash-out summer and we organised a weekly walking group. When we got home, Little Monster and I lay on a rug in the garden and the sun and breeze turned the trees into a play gym that money can't buy. The sun made things better by allowing Little Monster to trade his vest and babygro for a little romper suit so that he could feel his toes curling into the grass for the first time.

Of course the cat decided to join our party, but that's ok. It's sunny, I was feeling generous.

Friday, 18 May 2012

See It Snap It Love it - Reflection

Little Monster considerately offered to have a little nap to let me participate in Dear Beautiful Boy's "See It Snap It Love It" linky. This week's theme was Reflection which I loved as it got me thinking. Using some props I had to hand *cough*, I took this snap of a wine glass reflected in a wine bottle. Touched up with a little HDR effect in Picasa.

If you'd like participate, click on the badge below to link up!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

A Roleplay A Day Keeps The Doctor Away?

Some of my readers (actually a lot of them) are probably unaware that when I get a spare few hours, I am an avid online roleplayer. I know this sounds pretty off topic for my blog, but bear with me, I'm going to bring it back :)

Firstly, let's address what I mean by online roleplay and roleplay in general as it tends to get a bit of bad press. The basic premise of roleplay is that you create yourself a character with a background, personality and skillset appropriate to the imaginary environment that you are roleplaying in. As your character, you interact with others, to create and develop storylines. In many cases you are subject to the rules of a roleplay system which add an element of chance into whether your actions succeed or fail (and let's face it, too many infallible superheroes gets a little tiresome). Online roleplay, in my case, is through virtual 3D worlds. There is something for everyone out there but the majority of time, I play in gritty, urban environments set in the present day. The premise is the same as in-person roleplay but the system is more relaxed. Within certain boundaries, your character can follow any storyline. Any major outcomes would have to pre-agreed with those involved but the 'how' is up to you. Taking turns, you write in real time the actions of your character and respond to the actions of others.

Here's me with all my online friends

For me, online roleplay fulfills some of the same things as blogging. I love love love the creative writing side of things - over time constructing events which change and shape my character. Sometimes the events are dark and traumatic like a good crime/thriller novel but just as often I have a completely spontaneous funny roleplay with a few friends.

The thing is, as you can imagine, there really are online roleplay environments to cater for while it's a great thing for adults to be able to express themselves in whatever way they like, there's always the ongoing debate about suitability for children. To be honest, while I keep my roleplay relatively tame, I wouldn't even want Little Monster to be exposed to some of the storylines I have been involved in - in the same way that I wouldn't want him to watch films rated 15 when he's just a baby. The fact is that our children are going to be computer literate from a much earlier age than we were and, with that, there is going to be the desire to copy whatever you do. Even if I never roleplayed around Little Monster, you just know he's going to find that icon, double-click and away he goes!

So what's the right thing to do? How do we protect our children from unsuitable online content but still allow them to have access to the amazing expanse of information that the web has to offer? Because, as with virtual worlds, it is not just about webpages that we can choose to block. I don't have all the answers, or any actually, but I'd love to know your thoughts. As your little ones are getting more technology literate, how are you controlling or monitoring their access to online resources? Or even apps on your phone?

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Soul Searching About Nurseries

Even before Little Monster was born, I was already thinking about what would happen to him when I return to work. Child care is a minefield. There are a lot of options and as a rookie to this whole process it can be really overwhelming. Do you go back to work full time? Part time? Are there grandparents who can help with childcare? Do you use a childminder? A nursery? Close to work? Close to home?

You mull over all these options and none of them really seem good enough. Pretty much every day since Little Monster was born, I have craved a little bit of me again. I want to be back at work or have time to myself but at the same time, I can't imagine anyone else looking after Little Monster. He is our baby. Noone knows him like we do and noone else should get to experience his 'firsts' before us. What if he starts giving someone else the smiles that today are reserved for us? What if he needs us less?

Despite my neuroses, child care is a necessary evil.

Initially, I loved the idea of using a childminder...just putting Little Monster with one or two key adults who he will get to know.  We definitely wanted Little Monster to be in child care near home because we moved to the country for him. After looking into the options in our village and the local area, we found none of the childminders were viable - they only worked 3 days a week or only during school hours or they wanted a massive retainer to hold a baby place until next January. In the end, reluctantly, I started investigating local nurseries and, after a recommendation from a friend, we went to visit Simba's Den Day Nursery in the village of Bulwick.

Simba's Den only take 6 babies under the age of 2 and 22 children in total - in comparison to a total of over 100 at one of the other nurseries we looked at. As we arrived at Simba's Den, the older children were all going off to an optional ballet class (including the boys!). The atmosphere among the remaining children and the babies was lovely. They operate an outdoors philosophy which very much echos the lifestyle we hope to raise Josh in. The older children have regular trips to the nearby woods, they try to take at least 1 walk per day for each group and they even go Gruffalo Hunting! (Win!)

So, although I'm not happy about the idea of someone else taking care of Little Monster, Simba's Den felt good and I could see him being happy there. Sadly, I guess mum will never be quite as exciting as a nursery full of activities and other children to play with!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Blogging for Madeleine

Today I'm joining the collective endeavour of A Mummy's View and Tea&Biscotti to raise awareness about the continuing search for Madeleine McCann on this, her 9th birthday.

Madeleine went missing from her bed when she was on holiday with her family in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in 2007. Everyone knows this story so it hardly needs saying but Madeleine still needs to be found. I don't pretend to know what happened to this little girl or who is responsible but whatever you and I believe, someone out there knows where she is and she deserves justice.

The Metropolitan Police have recently released this age progressed photo of what Madeleine would look like now.

If you see a young girl who looks like this, please contact:
Your local police force immediately and 
Operation Grange on              0207 321 9251       (in the UK)
                                                         +44 207 321 9251       (non-UK) 
OR Crime stoppers in confidence on             0800 555111       or

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Little Monster and the Cold

When hubby and I both got the lurgy, we thought we had escaped without Little Monster catching it. Yay for breastmilk antibodies we thought! Ha. No such luck.

I think the nail in the proverbial coffin was that yesterday was Jabs Day. Little Monster had been coughing a little in the morning so I did ask whether he could have his inoculations but they said it was fine as long as he had an appetite and no temperature. With hindsight, it would have been better to wait but I wasn't completely sure he'd contracted the Evil Swamp Lurgy so we went ahead. With his little immune system otherwise engaged in dealing with a bloodstream full of polio, diptheria and other nasties, the Evil Swamp Lurgy got stuck in and Little Monster woke up this morning with a snotty nose.

A snotty nose is kind of annoying for a full grown adult. For a 3 month old baby it is basically the end of the world. So hubby purchased some saline spray and I think we eased his congestion a little bit before bedtime. By 9:30pm he was awake again, all blocked up. Rinse and repeat.

I'm quickly discovering that it's -horrible- when your child is ill and you just want to make everything ok again. Hopefully tomorrow will be a little less snotty.

What are your tried and tested ways of making your little one feel better when they have a cold?

Monday, 7 May 2012

12 Weeks Postpartum

Wow...12 weeks. Nearly 3 months. My life has changed incredibly since Josh arrived. I've sat here for an hour trying to figure out what I can say to mark this occasion. The last 3 months have been the best, the worst, the hardest of my life. They have also been full of amazing moments. Some of the ones that I want to remember forever are...
  • The first smiles. His smile is so amazing that I spend half the day trying to coax one :)
  • The first laugh (just yesterday!), brought about by shaking pistachio shells in a jar...who'd have thought?
  • Gaining head control. He pushes himself away from my chest to look around and has recently started doing mini push ups and looking around. He did that for the first time at baby massage last week and it was wonderful. Here's Little Monster in action.

  • Learning to suck his thumb (in a few years we'll probably be cursing his attachment to it!)
  • Starting to talk. I might add a short video when I get a chance. It's just wonderful having conversations of 'oooh' and 'ooahh' with him

To mark Little Monster's 12 weeks, here are my... 

12 Weeks Postpartum
In the first week postpartum, my baby gave to me, a very, very full nappy
In the second week postpartum, my baby gave to me, 2 teary days and a very, very full nappy
In the third week postpartum, my baby gave to me, 3 sleepless nights, 2 teary days and a very, very full nappy
In the fourth week postpartum, my baby gave to me, 4 daytime naps, 3 sleepless nights, 2 teary days and a very, very full nappy
In the fifth week postpartum, my baby gave to me, 5 little smiles! 4 daytime naps, 3 sleepless nights, 2 teary days and a very, very full nappy
In the sixth week postpartum, my baby gave to me, 6 feeds a day, 5 little smiles! 4 daytime naps, 3 sleepless nights, 2 teary days and a very, very full nappy
In the seventh week postpartum, my baby gave to me, 7 soulful stares, 6 feeds a day, 5 little smiles! 4 daytime naps, 3 sleepness nights, 2 teary days and a very, very full nappy
In the eighth week postpartum, my baby gave to me, 8 cooing noises, 7 soulful stares, 6 feeds a day, 5 little smiles! 4 daytime naps, 3 sleepness nights, 2 teary days and a very, very full nappy
In the ninth week postpartum, my baby gave to me, 9 new things daily, 8 cooing noises, 7 soulful stares, 6 feeds a day, 5 little smiles! 4 daytime naps, 3 sleepness nights, 2 teary days and a very, very full nappy
In the tenth week postpartum, my baby gave to me, 10 tummy time minutes, 9 new things daily, 8 cooing noises, 7 soulful stares, 6 feeds a day, 5 little smiles! 4 daytime naps, 3 sleepness nights, 2 teary days and a very, very full nappy
In the eleventh week postpartum, my baby gave to me, 11 loads of washing, 10 tummy time minutes, 9 new things daily, 8 cooing noises, 7 soulful stares, 6 feeds a day, 5 little smiles! 4 daytime naps, 3 sleepness nights, 2 teary days and a very, very full nappy
In the twelth week postpartum, my baby gave to me, 12 hours of sleep, 11 loads of washing, 10 tummy time minutes, 9 new things daily, 8 cooing noises, 7 soulful stares, 6 feeds a day, 5 little smiles! 4 daytime naps, 3 sleepness nights, 2 teary days and a very, very full nappy!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Making a SureStart

I have always believed that people are goal-oriented, that we need goals, work towards to maintain our mental health. That probably sounds a bit dramatic. All I mean to say is that without things to work towards I think we (or maybe just I?) can drift and lose our sense of purpose.

So having a year, a whole 366 days since it's a leap year, without having to go to work, with my only purpose to give Josh the best start would be easy to fall into a malaise of feeding, sleeping and nappy changing. I had always intended to start going to some mum and baby groups to give structure to my week but I think it would have been a lot more difficult without SureStart.

SureStart is a national service for parents and children from pregnancy through until the start of school. We have a local SureStart centre in Oundle and I can honestly say they have been great. They run several classes and groups from drop-in coffee sessions through messy play to baby massage, and they are all free of charge.

Through the Weigh and Play sessions I have had the opportunity to meet other mums (and a few dads!) when I am already going in to have Little Monster weighed. I've also been attending the baby massage course which is an amazing way to bond with your baby. After the massage, all the babies have a feed and drift off to sleep while the mums chat which is currently my favourite part of the week - I think it relaxes me as much as him!

So yay for SureStart and boo for the budget cuts which are threatening to severely reduce the available activities and sessions! SureStart has been an absolute lifesaver for me and I really believe the srevices they offer are good for keeping you busy, giving your week structure and fighting off Postnatal Depression. If you get the chance, make the most of it while you can.

I'd love to hear your experiences of SureStart in your area!