Thinking Out Loud

Baps. World Breastfeeding Week 2018.

Baps, boobs, breasts. Whatever you call them, in case you missed the memo, it’s World Breastfeeding Week 1st – 7th August. First up, I’m not a card holding member of the Breastapo. I am not a lactivist. I’m pro breastfeeding but not in an anti-formula feeding way.

I breastfed my two sons. Feels an age ago now because it was an actual decade ago the first time and 2012 the next. I had two different experiences but more about that later.

Why did I chose to give it a go in the first place?

  • Less expensive! When you’re on Statutory Maternity Pay this matters. Big time. Boob milk is free.
  • Less washing up! We’ve never had a dishwasher (except for that table top one that never got plumbed in so was just a glorified cupboard) so I saved myself hours of hand washing bottles and teats.
  • Less faff! Getting out of the house with a baby is challenging enough. I’m a disorganised mess and the massive changing bag I lugged everywhere was already fit to burst, was there even any room left for bottles? And all that measuring and warming up and cooling down. Yeesh.

So basically, I’m lazy and poor so breastfeeding seemed like the way to go. I didn’t read all the baby rearing books in the world, I didn’t go to any birthing classes (“they’re how much?!”) and I was the first of any groups of friends to have a baby. I didn’t feel any pressure to do it and I’d done jack all research. I was clueless.

First time was bloody challenging. It hurt, I bled, I got mastitis that was thankfully caught and treated very early on, my baby wasn’t gaining weight at the rate the charts said he should. He was borderline failing to thrive and I was having nightmares about him fading away into nothing. The breastfeeding support at St David’s hospital was vital, the lady running it reminded me of my Grandma with her Yorkshire accent and no-nonsense approach. I talked through what my health visitor had suggested (a bottle of formula at every breast feed) and she helped me work out something that helped my first born to beef up but also built up my supply. I topped up him with a bottle of formula each day, breastfed every two hours and pumped after each feed. It was awkward, it was the worst of both worlds but it worked. My baby was finally growing at a rate the health visitor approved of; I was able to slowly decrease the formula and we got back to feeding on demand with just breast milk.

The bonus was that he would take a bottle so when I first left him overnight (at 6 months on a hen do with regular breast pumping breaks) he would take expressed milk but if needs be he would take formula. I’m grateful to the formula milk for helping to give my tiny baby a much needed boost and for helping me to carry on breastfeeding as long as we wanted to.

I had no pressure from my husband to breastfeed, the opposite in fact as he could see me struggling and in pain. My mum was brilliant. Practical, supportive and again, no pressure. She breastfed me because we lived overseas when I was born and her friend advised she try it because she’d not and her baby struggled with the brands of milk in the shops changing so often depending on what got delivered to the island.

Second time was a dream. He latched well, fed on demand, he grew, I was comfortable. Happy days.

I know it’s not always easy. I know it’s not always possible. I know all the focus on the otehr benefits of breastfeeding make it hugely emotive and stir up those toxic responses to the topic like guilt and defensiveness. I just wanted to focus on the practical side of it: less expensive, less washing up, less faff.

I’ve never been an official breastfeeding mentor but I’ve been there for support and advice if real life friends have needed it. I’ve breastfed in all sorts of public and private spaces and I hope anyone who saw me or sat with me felt even just a tiny bit more confident about doing it themselves.

 

Thinking Out Loud

Awesome Grown Ups Day

This is a vintage blog post from 2013 when I wrote under a different blogging name in which I wrestle with the concept of ignoring Father’s Day.

We all know Mothering Sunday goes way back but Father’s Day is a more recent addition to our lives and the more cynical amongst us might be of the opinion that it was invented by avaricious greetings card manufacturers. (My husband) was more than happy with his homemade hand picture and card from the 6, 4 and 1 year olds in his life. No £3.99 card for him!

hands

My sons’ nursery and primary schools veer well clear of the handmade cards that all small people usually sneak home around Mother’s Day when it comes to Dad’s turn. Last year some parents asked nursery staff why this was the case. The simple answer was that there were too many children without fathers in their lives so it was not something they wanted to draw attention to in the classroom.

Last week it was reported on the BBC and in print media that there are a million children growing up without fathers. My husband grew up in a single parent family. His father lived in the same town but never bothered with him so he never bothered back. However, he had good role models around him and his mum’s lovely. He is a fantastic dad to our sons and his daughter who lives with her (single) mum. His daughter has a very different relationship with her father than he did with his. She stays with us twice a week in her own bedroom and is a main character in our little family, involved in every holiday, trip and party. She loves her dad in exactly the same way as her (half) brothers do.

I heard some very sad news last night about a lovely fella I had the pleasure of living next door to while we were in university. His wife, pregnant with their second child, had died and the baby had been delivered prematurely. Mother’s Day will come around every year with a bittersweet sting in the tail and Father’s Day will fall at the same time of year as his children lost their mum. But will their schools ignore Father’s Day just in case it upsets any children without a dad in their home or their lives?

I don’t want to get on a political high horse about parents and families but I think it’s a shame for those children without traditional family set ups to miss out on a chance to say thank you to their fathers (who could be widows or not live with the child) and talk about other positive role models in school.

Rather than cut off our noses to spite our faces, why don’t we have a more general ‘Awesome Grown Up’ day (with a far catchier name) for all children to thank an important and awesome adult in their life? Father, step father, care worker, lollypop man, rugby coach, whoever they may be.

Thinking Out Loud

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week #RealMotherhood

It’s Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. This year’s theme is #RealMotherhood #NoShame and a reminder that getting real about motherhood is healthy for everyone.

I was first pregnant a decade ago and my youngest is 6 so maybe I’m too far removed from my own experience to be sharing it here but we all have a part to play. Supporting our friends, neighbours, colleagues and families is so important. It’s OK to not be OK.

I went to a friend’s wedding when my first baby was 2 weeks old and at the do I just remember feeling, how to describe it? Out of it? Woozy? Years later I tried explaining that I felt isolated, excluded, that everyone else was having a whale of a time and I was… I was content but not me. I was sober for a start! It was a scorching July day and I needed to breastfeed my shrimp of a child in the shade (because he might spontaneously combust in the sun, right?) so I ended up sat on my own in the shade of a marquee while everyone else basked in the sun. Jealously glancing over at friends drinking and laughing and looking fabulous, not the state I felt in flip flops because proper shoes didn’t fit my trotters and leggings under my dress because it wasn’t as boob accessible as I’d naively assumed when buying it. A mum of a friend came over and talked with me. She’s not someone I knew well but I was so thankful. She talked to me about my job, dance, all sorts. It felt like the first time someone saw through the fog and not some mother and baby package.  It wasn’t out of pity, it wasn’t patronising, she chatted away and listened, it was as simple as that.

Of course I loved my babies and of course they do take over but remember a mum of a newborn is more than a milk machine. She might be like a swan, looking serene and graceful on the surface but underneath she’s paddling away trying to stay afloat. She might be physically battered but she’s possibly mentally battered too.

With at least 1 in 10 mums developing a mental illness during pregnancy, or in the year that follows, it is so important to raise awareness of maternal mental health: tommys.org/maternalMHmatt…#MaternalMHMatter @TommysMidwives

I was fine, I am fine. Not everyone is. I had a wobble, I didn’t have a diagnosed maternal mental health condition. For every joyful #blessed #mama out there, remember that it’s not the same for everyone. My second time around was so much easier for me. No cabin fever, I felt more in control, I didn’t have nightmares about my newborn fading away into nothing which I didn’t tell anyone about because I knew it sounded worrying.

7 in 10 women will hide or underplay the severity of their perinatal mental illness #everyonesbusines everyonesbusiness.org.uk @MMHAlliance

Sometimes the best support is not trying to get someone to talk about their feelings but just being there. If they’re not ready for visitors, just send a hello by text. In those earliest of days the best visit was my mum bringing a Sunday roast around for us, making no demands to coo over the baby or cwtch her grandchild but being a practical help. It’s the offering to take the dogs for a walk, doing the ironing, making cups of tea instead of expecting to be waited on hand and foot. (Note to self: remember all this for when the new niblings arrive in the next couple of months.)

I set up this blog partly in response to the gazillions about babies and toddlers. Mine are older and my parenting experience isn’t about nappies and baby vom anymore but the pregnancy and the mad year that follows is so important and you don’t forget it.

As for #RealMotherhood I suppose I’m part of the problem. I tend to share photos of the lovely things we do, the brilliant places we go and on my personal social media their smiling faces. Should I be more real and photograph the tears and tantrums? I really don’t think it would have helped my 9 year old this morning if I’d snapped him in a grump and I’d feel the same.

Just take my word for it that for every photo of a wholesome daytrip we also have a Saturday morning watching cartoons and eating cereal. For every matchy matchy special occasion outfit that my boys wear there’s a mismatched set of pyjamas or school joggers with a hole in the bum (the 6 year old has done this to three (yes THREE) pairs of joggers this year). I’ll try to post some Instagram shots of my week’s chaos to give you a flavour of my real life.

If the content of this post has made you think of anything that has happened to you or someone you know and you feel upset, worried or uncomfortable then please visit Maternal Mental Health Alliance for a list of support services. I am not an expert in anything.

If you want to join in with the #RealMotherhood 5-day Challenge then just share your piccies and posts about the barefaced reality of motherhood. Warts and all. Keep it light and silly or use it as a chance to be truthful about your own experience. Let’s not judge ourselves by unrealistic standards.

 

#RealMotherhood #NoShame @TheBlueDotProject @MMHAlliance #everyonesbusiness #MaternalMHmatters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking Out Loud

Wishing my life away

Anyone else feel like they’re wishing their life away? “Only one more term of this school year left to go.” Whaaaat?! I still think of ages in school years – if you were born between September 1982 and August 1983 then we are kindred spirits. Age, schmage, when did you do your GCSEs? Class of ’99 you are my people.

I don’t think I’m ready for 2018 yet and it’s well and truly underway. I can’t keep up with the politics (WT actual F are they thinking?) or the fashion (did you hear that the scrunchie is back? The bloody scrunchie!)

I’ve said before that I’m not into the whole “they grow too quick” rhetoric. I’m fine with my kids getting older and more independent, that’s cool. It’s the rest of the world I can’t handle. I’ve been in my “new” job for more than 3 years and I still think I’m the new girl. I was in uni for 3 years and that felt like a lifetime. In a good way.

On a positive note, I’ve embraced body positivity so I’m no longer wishing away weeks at a time with that “when I’ve lost a stone” type of thinking but I’m still clinging to the magical payday with “I’ll book those tickets at the end of the month” or “just a week to go until I buy those shoes.” I’m no Imelda Marcos, I’m not binging on a shoe flavoured shopping spree. I have holes in the soles of my leather boots, rips in the heels of my Primark hi-top daps and snapped laces in my other boots. 

Does time go faster as you get older? Maybe it’s because I’m flailing about with no major life marker in the year, no more children, no career change, no wedding, no big birthday. I’m sure there’s some motivational meme out there about enjoying each day. I do something every day that scares me (answering the phone, checking the front door’s locked at night, getting in lifts). Carpe diem and all that even if your boots are falling apart and time is going too fast.

 

Thinking Out Loud

To #ad or not to #ad

If you’re a fellow mum blog lurker on the gram, you can’t fail to have picked up on a recent anti-ad mood. I’m not an influencer. Not by a long shot. No siree. Not in the blogosphere, on any social media platform or even in real life (I can barely influence my own kids to eat vegetables). My relentless “Easter things to do” recommendations are exactly that, they’re ideas and suggestions. Some I’ve tried out with my own kids in the past and some just sounded incredibly cool and I wanted to tell more people about them. No one has paid me to mention their place or promote their thing. No #sponsored #gifted or #ad here.

That said, I’m not anti-ad. A gal’s gotta eat. I blog, insta, tweet and facebook in between work and mothering and the rest of my life. It still takes up a heck of a lot of time. My following is miniscule (but ever so appreciated, thanks for coming). I’m typing into the ether, ranting in a vacuum most of the time.

From comments on social media and chatting with real life mates I’ve picked up a sense of frustration with influencers, with mum bloggers who’ve built up a “I’m just like you”, “we’re all just muddling along together”, “yay for Mums” type of vibe. Then it turns a little sour, a tad ingenuous when they’ll go on a fancy holiday, go to a swanky restaurant or wear something and you’re foolish enough to click through to the company and then you do a little sick in your mouth at the cost. Jealousy is an ugly little beast but sometimes I just can’t help it. I feel out of depth, poor, worthless and a bit like I’m still at school where it felt that it mattered to be cool (which I wasn’t) and popular (which I wasn’t).

It’s made me question why I’m even bothering with this. Why me? What have I got to say that some other mum isn’t already sharing online? Does the world really need another white, straight, female, English language parent blogger? Nope. I might come across as confident in real life but I assure you that nearly every waking hour I am wallowing in self-doubt. I’ve not started this to make money. I’ve not started this to be popular. I’m doing this, in the words of Billie Piper, “because I want to, because I want to”.

So good luck to the others, the behemothers (see what I did there?) and monetising moms. I follow a massive range of them, some for their clothes, some for the giggles, some for the campaigns, some for a mix of all three. I’m just using the approach I apply to the rest of my life, making it up as I go along. Some people feel a weird fandom ownership over the most followed and well known mum bloggers and intagrammers. They’re just playing the game like all of us. Maybe they’re better resourced or ahead of the game but so what. Just do you. There’s room for all of us and if only 5 people read this (OK, that’s optimistic and I’m definitely related to at least one of you if there are 5) then that’s fine too. Oh and if anyone wants to give me any free stuff I’m definitely not too principled to consider the offer!