Strap yourself in first.

I had a massage today. I needed it. I’ve had a horrible week, I really needed it.

But I found the process of doing something so indulgent, so totally selfish, a very strange process indeed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had massages before, I’ve been pampered and spoiled. But since I’ve been a mother, not so much. The guilt I feel when I am away from my little miss takes any joy out of the me time.

Today was different.

I’ll start at the beginning. I’ve had a horrible week.

Monday was OK, a sad day away from my little one after a lovely weekend but I got through. My milk supply while pumping at work was a little lower than usual, but a collegue kept me company so it wasn’t as lonely a day as they have been so far.

Tuesday, as usual baby fed from 3am to 5.30am. (her new trick since I’ve been back at work). I fell asleep mid feed, not unusual, but this time it resulted in a bad neck. So bad I couldn’t drive to work. I decided, for some reason, that I would still go to work and got a lift with a work friend. Milk supply was right down, neck was agony, day was very stressful. Being back at work for so long has really hit and my mood is very very low.

Wednesday, neck sore but the ability to look left has returned. Long day at work, but milk supply returning to normal. Breakdown at home, hating being away and hating being so isolated at work. Rarely seeing another adult due to expressing and feeling horribly alone.

Thursday, my later start at work. Neck worse than ever, barely able to move. I have my standard PND review with the doctor first thing. Anti dependants dosage is increased and doctor recommends speaking with my head teacher. She also looks at my neck. We suspect that stress and tension are not helping. For some reason, I foolishly decide that work, and parents evening, will be fine. My long suffering amazing husband drives me in and arranges to pick me up at 7. He is not impressed with my decision as he has always said “if you are not well enough to drive then you are not well enough to work”. He was right. After 2 hours I am in tears with the pain. I break down on a staff member about feeling so alone and share my guilt at having to be away from my darling. Hubby returns to get me at 3.

Friday, day off. Yay. Baby sensory and a massage. Hubby has to drive and come to baby sensory. By this point I am struggling to pick up my baby.

When on a plane, during safety talks, we are reminded of the need to fit our own oxygen masks before those of our children. To strap ourselves in first. As a teacher I have always understood that I need to look after myself before I can be effective in the classroom. As a parent I have so far forgotten this. My strap has been left very much undone.

So, today I strapped myself in. I took another step towards reclaiming my happiness. And it was amazing. This was a full on massage. A massage of the paper pants variety. Hot oil, steam, showers, not an inch of my body, (bar my breastfeeding boobs) was left untouched. I came home a happier, calmer and more relaxed mummy. (With a neck that is almost back to normal!)

It was strange doing something so totally selfish, something which benefited only me. But on reflection, I now feel more able to enjoy the weekend, and surely that’s good for my family too?

If you feel depressed or sad, or guilty or down, you time can be a real challenge. Being alone with your thoughts can feel dangerous and it’s easy to think that you don’t deserve the pampering. I urge you, strap yourself in. I did, and it has helped. Sure, it hasn’t fixed me, it will take more than a massage to do that, but I can see now, I am worth it, and I do deserve it.

I really do.

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Places my daughter has thrown up without me noticing.

We have a sicky baby. However, when discussing with friends I discover she is no more sicky than most. So, if you are planning a family, heed my warning and prepare yourself for sick.

And I don’t mean those cute little white splats babies leave on shoulders- I mean entire stomach contents at high speed.

There comes a time however when you stop noticing the moment it happens, then you get the joy of later discovery.

1) Our Bedroom Mirror
I stopped to check my reflection yesterday, (this is unusual as I am often both short on time and scared of what I might see), I then discovered it looks like a bird has pooed all over it.

2) The Outside Of her Crib
This one baffles me. A long crusty line of sick runs right down one edge.

3) Underneath the throws on the sofa
This was not noticed until I removed the throws to wash them, (as they too were covered in sick!)

4) The Dining Room Table
Nothing says “join us for dinner” better than a white puddle on your place mat.

5) My Side of the Bed
How lovely to roll over and wonder what the wet patch is. How strange to be relieved when you discover it is only sick.

6) My clothes
This happens often- the best obey being 15 minutes before parents evening at work.

7) My Face
Yes she was sick on ny face, and no, I didn’t notice straight away. This was also just before meeting parents.

8) My Boob
Not only did I miss this one, apparently so did she. My classy little girl proceeded to carry on feeding regardless, sucking the sick back to whence it came. (yeap – they really do that kind of thing)

9) The Bath
It was only when I realised the bath water was now white that I noticed  the sick on her chin.

10) A Restaurant floor
Noticed by my feed as I slipped up on it.

This list will no doubt grow over time, and now we have started to introduce solids I am sure the sick will be even more delightful.

Bodily fluids hey- only as a parent could you find you have turned into the type of person that would write a blog post about them!

Reflection on the new years resolution.

I need to get myself back on track. I set out to reclaim my happiness this year, and after a great start it is slipping away. I will not let this become just another failed resolution.

So, time to reflect. I broke my simple resolution down into steps.
Count my blessings
I am grateful every day for my beautiful daughter and loving husband. I am grateful for my house, my job, my family. I count my blessings daily. TICK.

Remember those that matter
Yes, those that matter are never forgotten, but I sadly spend time worrying about those that do not matter too. HALF TICK.

Unclutter my life, (including my brain and my to do list!)
Slowly getting there…. HALF TICK

Be a better wife
Big fat fail. I still need to do more for my husband. 😦

Ask for help
Sometimes… HALF TICK

Stop comparing myself to others
Another big fat fail 😦

Give everything I do my full attention
Nearly there. There is still too much multi tasking, but I am improving. HALF TICK.

Don’t obsess
I STILL spend too much time thinking about things and people that really don’t matter. To the point of obsession. I MUST stop. Another fail.

Cut down on facebook
A definite success at the start of the year. Now not so good. I have decided to stay off Facebook completely for the first week of every month.  HALF TICK.

All aimed at helping me to BE HAPPY.
In conclusion some days good, some days not so good. This was never going to be a quick fix.  I haven’t given up. I’m still trying.

While you were sleeping…

I write this post snuggled up in our bed with my daughter. Feeding her to sleep, (currently unsuccessfully as she has just learnt to wiggle and is keen to show it off.)

Sleep- that parenting area that is guaranteed to split the crowd. At this point I’d like to reiterate that this blog does not aim to judge or instruct, but simply to share, and in some cases defend, the choices I have made.

Before F was born my husband and I talked with absolute certainty of what we would do regarding sleep. We would NEVER have our daughter in our bed, it’s dangerous and sets you up fir life. We would use controlled crying when she was older and we needed to instill a routine. Oh how naive we were!!

Within a week I had fallen asleep while feeding in the night. Against all our intentions we were co-sleeping, all be it accidentally. So, I did some reading. We accepted that we wanted to co-sleep, for comfort, for ease and for bonding- and of course to allow me to actually get some sleep once in a while. So I read up on how to do so safely. For anyone else interested I highly recommend a look. http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth/advice/0071398856.php?nid=367. And for us, it worked. When F grew out of her Moses basket at 3 months we knew, that for our family, it was too early for her to be in her own room, so we rented the NCT benest crib. A sidecar crib that allows baby to sleep right next to Mum, but in her own bed. Now, as much as I love this crib 9 nights out of 10 she still spends the night in bed with us. She wakes, on average, every 3 hours, feeding and then returning to sleep. Inevitably I fall asleep during some, if not all of these feeds, (another bonus of breastfeeding is that, at night time, it releases a hormone to make both mum and baby sleepy). And if I fall asleep and she stays in our bed, so be it, she is happy and she is safe. We drift in and out of consciousness. She and I are in tune, she latches on in a semi awake state, I cuddle, I adjust my clothing and ensure she’s on the correct side. (no one wants lopsided boobs!) When she’s more awake we play, we rock, we sing, we change the odd nappy and have a lot of giggles. Yes I’m exhausted, but I love it. And I have a heck of a lot more sleep than I would if I had to keep getting out of bed to sort her out!

However, we face a new challenge,
F is crawling. She is also pulling herself up on things. She is now (even as I type) pulling herself up using the edge of the crib. This sleeping set up is reaching the end of its safe life.

She has her own room. There is a cot in it. The cot is being used for storage. It’s time to clear it out and move her in. I’m not ready. I don’t think she is either. We will try. Friends have told me that their babies started to sleep for longer when in their own room, perhaps this will happen to us too. (although- I don’t think I’m ready for that either!)

I realise a lot of my choices here could be quite controversial, (and I am sure the in laws don’t approve!) feeding to sleep and bedsharing are certainty contentious issues. We also have no fixed routine, and I have learnt that if she is not sleepy there is no point in trying to male her sleep! (hence why she is now back downstairs and rolling on the floor- this post is taking a while!)

I, personally, will never let my daughter “cry it out”, in fact, if I can offer her comfort I will never allow her to cry. I have read into this area too, and I respect those who make this decision, but it’s not for me. Not for us. I have my reasons and strong beliefs, but I do not want to sound judgmental here, so I will add no further details.

So, last night, while you were sleeping, we cuddled, we fed, we sang, we wiggled, we laughed, we rocked, we changed, and, believe it or not, for a while, we even slept.

Tales of a pathetic week.

“I’ve had a meltdown. No, I’m having a meltdown. My head hurts and my heart hurts. I feel sad and angry. I feel guilty and sick.”

I wrote the above two days ago and never finished my post. A really bad day. I still feel bad today, but it’s  the weekend- time with my girl. That helps.

Now, this post will sound pathetic, and childish, and probably a little creepy. But I know what started the meltdown. I know exactly the moment it went from, rubbish day, to, I can’t cope anymore.

I saw a comment on Facebook! A comment from someone, to his girlfriend, calling her the best Mummy in the world. This caused the most monumental torrent of stuff in my head. If my thoughts had been audible they would have drowned out the crowd at a football match.
“They live together- why does Facebook need to know? How very staged.”
“My husband would never write that about me for everyone to see, people will forget about me, or think I’m a bad mum.”
“I am a good mum, especially carrying on breastfeeding through difficulties and returning to work.”
“Really?!”
“She must have done something amazing- I’ve failed”

And the rest.

Last week I discovered http://livingintheblackstuff.wordpress.com/. Her post from10th Jan- made me smile. Someone else seems to get it. Thank you!

Still this situation made me want to grrr.

Grrrr. Anyway- I lost it. I became angry, sad and unable to stop crying. This then made me feel guilty for crying and pathetic for crying. I’ve been back at work 3 weeks now. I’ve missed huge steps in my daughters life and it breaks my heart that I am failing her this much.

I think it might  be time for another Facebook cold turkey- how can I allow something so silly to dictate my mood and happiness?!

I’ve decided that the first week of every month will be Facebook free. I hope I can manage and get back on track with reclaiming my happiness.

This weekend we plan to move my daughter into her own room. I don’t want to. It’s going to be another tricky week- I’ll  let you know how it goes. (if anyone is still reading after my many miserable and pathetic posts!)

Stop the ride, I want to get ON!

There is a blog post going viral at the moment. “The truth about maternity leave” has once again reminded me of the one thing I have never forgotten. YES, I KNOW IT GOES FAST.

For me, (as I have mentioned many times!) maternity leave is already over.  Daily reminders of the things I wanted to do, or more importantly, the time I wanted to spend, are nothing more than salt in the wound.

On one of my expressing breaks last week, I received a picture from one of the NCT girls, a picture of 4 of the beautiful NCT babies enjoying a baby sensory class.  My daughter’s Baby Sensory class runs on my day off, so this fun has luckily not been stopped by work, but I was still left with a deep feeling of regret, of time lost, and of missing out. My daughter is at home with her Daddy, enjoying an opportunity that most of her friends are not lucky enough to get, but I still feel like she is missing out. Missing out on the social time with other babies and missing out on time with me.

I feel deeply selfish, in a similar way to the dog in the manger, but the truth is, I’d like everyone to wait for me. I’d like the world to stop while I am at work. I’d like my daughter to stop learning, stop growing. I’d like my friends to stop having fun. I’d like lunches to stop and coffees to wait.

I’m selfish I know, but I hate the feeling of missing out. This is all mixed up with my intense sense of regret associated with my daughter’s birth and the early days of her life. I have talked before about our early issues with tongue tie which made me scared of my daughter at the start of her life, and issues surrounding the birth is an area I still need some support with. These early hurdles are not the worst people over come, they are not, by any standard, serious issues, but for me they hold so much regret. As a result of these things my daughter and I did not share much skin to skin in the early days. Skin to skin between mother and baby has many benefits, including its ability to help regulate hormones.  F and I share skin to skin on occasion now, and I love it. It fills me with the kind of love that overwhelms me. Yes it makes me cry, it makes me remember the time I missed, the time I will never recover, but it also reminds me that all is not lost. I have a beautiful baby girl. Now, at six months, she has to be in the right mood for skin to skin. She values it, but only when she doesn’t want to play, or ‘talk’ or laugh. But, in a beautiful regression, now I am back at work she values it more. Our time together has become more special and skin to skin is helping us both adjust to the changes we face.

Anyway – I digress again. Life doesn’t stand still, life won’t wait for me to not be working. F won’t stop learning, she won’t wait for me to be at home to speak her first word or to stand for the first time. I can’t expect others to wait for me, to stop having fun until I clock off from work. I must instead learn to make the most of the time I do have. To value it, to not sit at home watching TV while F plays on the floor, but to get down there and play with her, to get out and experience life. Watch her grow, hold her tight and not blink, not miss a second. There is no waiting, the world won’t stop for me to join it, I have to run and jump, and join the ride when it’s already in full flow.

Here I go! Wish me luck.

Read the blog post I refer to here, (this is not my blog)
http://gasandairblog.com/2014/01/15/the-truth-about-maternity-leave/

Words are all I have

My daughter is on the move. At only six months this is earlier than I expected. And it’s exhausting!

I suddenly find myself uttering the words I promised myself I never would. “F, No!” (F being her initial rather than me swearing at her!)

As she once again heads for the one corner of the room that doesn’t contain toys, to grab at, and chew the wires, I put on a firm voice that Supernanny would be proud of and tell her, “No”. She looks at me, she smiles, she laughs, she carries on. 

Of course she does. She has no experience of “No”. Why should she? At six months of age she she is only beginning the adventure of life, (an adventure that makes  me cry just to think of). To tell her “No” is to tell her to stop, to give in, to quit the adventure before she has passed the starting line. This is why I had promised myself that “No” was a word I would not utter until she was old enough to understand it.

Thus far I have parented by instinct. It’s so easy as a parent to find yourself drowning in a sea of books, routine instructions and advice from well meaning sources. This can overwhelm you and easily let you lose sight of the perfect individual you have created. An individual that didn’t come with an instruction manual. So I can’t understand why we try to make them fit a rule book.

I feel that I most fit the slot of attachment parenting, in that we babywear, breastfeed, bed share and I would never ever use cry it out.  However, I would hate to call myself such a thing for fear that I am caught out when I do something others in that field would not agree with. I’m a parent, and not a perfect one, but I know my daughter best and I parent according to how I feel I can best meet her needs.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love rules, and I certainly agree with (appropriate) consequences. I’m a teacher after all! However, you can’t punish someone for something they don’t understand, and you certainly can’t punish a baby for exploring the world and learning about life.

This is why I am so cross with myself for my firm (and wholey unsuccessful) “No”. I need an alternative. A distraction, an explanation, a removal of the problem or a way to teach the lesson. (and I don’t  mean through letting her eat the wires!)

A cuddle, a suggestion. This is what I will try next. “Let’s play over here.” or “Where is your ball?” (and if that doesn’t work I’ll  try something new.)

Words are so important. They create us and can all too easily break us. When I think back on my week it’s what was said that I remember first. And when I think back on life, it’s memories of words that make me smile or cry. We build our children through our words. They grow in the image we paint for them with our words. My husband and I have, for a long time, been affectionately calling our daughter grumpy bum when she is crying. This is unfair of us, and I have decided it has to stop. Instead we need to help her understand her tears. “I think you are tired and sleep will make you feel better”, “I think you are hungry, would you like some milk?” or perhaps, “shall we change your nappy? Is that the problem?”.

If she grows into the image our words have created then grumpy is a dangerous term. As a teacher I try hard to swap, “You forget everything” with “How can I help make sure you remember?” and the like. As a mother this is even more important.

Words are indeed all I have. And with these words I need to teach, guide and build a whole  person.

Of course I am also not suggesting undue praise or compliments, for this is a sure way to make them lose their value. But, just as the negative needs explaining, so too does does the positive. “You are a very clever girl for hitting the button on your toy.” “I am so happy that you are smiling today.”

Inevitably, try as I might, I know that I will use the words I have promised myself not to. And there will be days, (many I am sure) when I am disappointed in myself for my poor explanations. But at the end of the day, the most important words I can tell my daughter, the ones I use everyday, and have promised to use every day for the rest of my life, are the ones I do not need to explain.

“I love you.”