The morning rush. 

Daddy left for work an hour ago.  We have snoozed and snuggled in the big bed too long.  You watching cartoons on the tablet, me drifting between sleep and feeding your sister.

We have to get up.  Now.  Get up, get dressed, have breakfast, get in the car and drive to nursery.  

Our morning is routine only in it’s lack of one.  I rush you into your bedroom to get dressed.  You get distracted; by a new Christmas gift, a sticker that has made its way upstairs on someone’s sock, by a dragon, a dinosaur, a teeeny tiny fairy, by your own imagination.  

I shout.  I shouldn’t shout but I do.  Eventually you are dressed, your sister has her nappy changed and she too is dressed.  Somewhere in this I have, miraculously, manage to dress myself, and, with me still nagging, we make it downstairs. 

You are telling me a story, about a game you want to play, I have to ask three times what you would like for breakfast. Your sister plays on her mat, watching you, with those wide eyes and the smile that she reserves only for you. Breakfast is on the table while I stick washing in the machine, pack bags and de-ice the car. I’m ready to load the last two things into the car. My children.  But you haven’t touched breakfast, instead you are deciding which of your toys you would like to take to nursery today.  Which item will receive the honour of being shown to your friends.

You have no concept of time, my increasingly more frantic and pleading voice means nothing to you.  So what if we are late?  What does late mean anyway? 

Nothing.  It means nothing.  

You teach me so much. There is plenty of time for rushing later.  There are alarms and clocks and deadlines galore in your future.  Now, this small window, of no work, no school, no expectations, this is our chance to slow down.

Slow down. Lie on the play mat.  Fight the dragons.  Tell the story.  Play. Laugh. Love.

Time: right now we have it.  Let’s not rush it. 

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I am a conker

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I am a conker

A discarded shell on the ground.

My spiky exterior once housed new life. The rough edges of my shell have a soft white centre, ready to grow and protect that within it.

I grew as it grew and I opened myself, tearing apart to let life out. The life continued to grow without me. A seed growing into a tree. Bringing joy.

Now I lie barren. So empty. Ready, in my heart, to grow another life. So ready to share more love. Ready to protect, to shelter and to give. To give myself. To grow more and, to once again, open myself, break my shell and allow life out.

But instead I lie. With the leaves of Autumn. Brown and red. Like blood.

I was a conker. I gave life.

I have more life to give.

Please let me grow life again.

One small step for a toddler

One giant leap for my heart.

She’s walking. My darling girl is on the move. She took her first steps a week shy of 11 months and is now, at 11 months 2 weeks, running around the living room giggling.

What mix of emotions those first wobbly steps created.

Excitement
With every new milestone and achievement from my darling, comes a new rush of excitement. There is no joy I have found that can equal that which I feel when she laughs. And with each new discovery she glows. She laughs and she smiles. How exciting! I have a walking baby- and she is not yet 1!

Fear
My heart is walking around outside my body. I feel intensely vulnerable right now. With every step she takes she is at risk of hurting herself. This scares me.

Useless
This independence is just the start of my redundancy. (I realise this is a tad melodramatic) First she starts solid foods and doesn’t rely on me for 100% if her nutrition. Now she doesn’t need me to get about. What next?! Potty training?!

Regret
I am once again reminded that my baby is growing up. In fact, she is no longer a baby, she is a toddler. I am reminded of the time I failed her and all the things I did wrong in the early days and weeks. That time has gone and I will never get it back.

Pride
My baby is walking!!!

The Breastfeeding essential that your wife didn’t know she needed.

It takes 2 to breastfeed – Mum and baby.

There is very little else you need. Baby stores and franchises will try to sell you gizmos and gadgets galore, claiming to make breastfeeding easier for all. In reality, although many of these things are indeed useful, they are not essential.

There is one essential though, it’s cheap, it’s easy, and it can make or break Mummy’s breastfeeding experience.

YOU.

The support you give changes everything.

It takes 2 to breastfeed, but it takes 3 to make a breastfeeding happy family.

Studies show that women with supportive partners are more likely to breastfeed to six months and beyond.

So, here are my top tips, from a Mum to a Dad.

BEFORE BABY

Learn with her
Breastfeeding is hardwork. There is so much I didn’t know about it before having a baby that I now laugh at my uneducated and unaware self. Read together, take classes together and make it your business as much as hers.

Prepare her
Or rather, help her understand that she will never really be prepared. Yes you should read, yes you should learn, but in reality when baby is here everything is different. Reassure her that you will help her through it- regardless.

THE EARLY DAYS
Prompt her and guide her
So, baby is here and the woman you love most in the world is physically and emotionally drained. Put your arm around her and help her latch baby. Work together to find that perfect latch and share a moment you will remember forever as your child takes their first few sips.

Protect her
If she complains of pain then you must take her seriously. Question every professional you can until it is sorted. This could be down to so many things that they can not all be listed here, but make sure you ask a professional to check for tongue tie and get your partner as much support as is physically possible.
(Protect her from discomfort in practical ways too- stock up on cushions!)

Feed her
In those first few days your new creation will spend more time on those boobs than you have in your relationship so far! Your partner needs food. Breastfeeding requires more calories than pregnancy, cake and chocolate are a must. Oaty foods such as flapjack can help increase supply if this is needed. She’ll need hot meals too, so make sure her food is cut up into small.chunks, eating one handed will soon become her superpower. Make this possible..

Water her
Make sure that there is a drink within reach at all times. And make sure she is drinking it. Dehydration is not a friend of a new Mum.

Rest her
Allow her a toilet break and a bath. Skin to skin with Daddy can calm baby and give Mum 20 valuable minutes of bathtime peace. Perhaps take baby for a walk in the pram while Mummy has a power nap.

Entertain her
It can be incredibly dull sitting down with a baby on your boob all day. Make sure she has the television remote to hand, stock up on magazines and box sets of her favourite series.

Reassure her
Yes, its OK that baby is feeding all the time. They are growing. No, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t have enough milk, it just means that baby is making sense of the new world.

Praise her
She is amazing! Tell her that, tell her often. Her hormones will be all over the place, you have not met a hormonal lady until you live with a new mother when her milk comes in. (approx day 4) Keep telling her you love her and thanking her for the fabulous and priceless gift she is giving your child.

Believe in her
She can do it. There will be many many times when she doubts herself, your belief must be her constant in this emotionally draining world.

FEEDING TO SIX MONTHS AND BEYOND

Defend her
There will come a time when those around you, be they family or friends, will ask when she is going to stop. Adverts for Follow on milk have incorrectly led many to believe that six months is “time to move on from breastfeeding”. In fact, the World Health Organisation recommends extended breastfeeding to 2 years and beyond. Make sure that you make this clear to anyone who questions her. ANYONE, even your family.

Praise her (even more)
Isn’t it amazing that she has kept going for this long? So few people do. Isn’t she amazing? Tell her again. And tell anyone who will listen. Wonderful.

And good luck to you all.

It’s fabulous.

How to cheer up a woman with post natal depression.

This a question that someone wrote in a search engine to find my blog. They were delivered to my post about mythbusting, but I am sure they would not have found it a satisfactory answer. I am, for no reason in particular, assuming this was a husband, or partner, looking to support the mother of their child.

So, this is my answer.

How can I cheer up a woman with PND?

Don’t Try.

Cheering someone up, by its very nature, belittles the person with PND. Attempting to cheer them up suggests that you think their illness could be cured with a quick joke or funny dance. It can’t, and it is disrespectful to try.

You can however make them smile, understand them and make the cloud overhead clear for just a little while. Maybe the sun might even briefly shine through. You can make a small difference. And a small difference is a huge difference to someone with PND.

I do not pretend to be an expert, but after dark journey into the light I can say what would have given me a glimpse at sun.

Praise. And praise publicly.
Remind them that they are a great mother. Tell them how proud you are of them for bringing such an amazing baby into the world. (However labor went). Make the praise specific. “You are such a good Mum for staying calm during tears”, “We are both very lucky to have someone as selfless as you in our lives”. PND can often involve an intense paranoia that everyone else thinks you are a bad mother, so make this praise public. Tell Facebook how amazing she is, tell your family, tell her family, tell everyone you know. (and those you don’t!)

Small touches
Hugs, smiles, a squeeze of the hand or a nod of the head. All small and easy things that give a moment of reassurance.

Be her biggest defender.
Even when you can’t see that they need it. Be aware and be sensitive to the topics they may feel attacked on and jump to their rescue. (whether you believe they need it or not). If a parenting choice is being discussed then state clearly and without prompting that you are proud of her for her choices and that you agree with them wholeheartedly.

Give her time.
Time to sit, time to stare, time to be. Recognise that she has not made a choice to be ill and that recovery will not be quick.

Talk to her.
About life, about how she feels, about how you feel. About your child, about work and about the mundane. Show her that you care by telling her you love her and telling her that things will be OK. She will be happy again and you will help her get there.

Listen. Really listen.
You may think her reasons are strange, you may find her concerns ridiculous and you may find her anxiety frustrating. But listen as she tell you why they exist. Listen as she explains what her fear is in that moment and listen as she repeats herself over and over. Really listen. And to prove you have heard make sure to act on something she has said.

Be Silent
Allow her to sit and cry. Don’t belittle her emotions with comments. Just sit with her. Hold her hand, make her a drink and give her a kiss. Crying is important. Don’t stop her.

Don’t treat her as you normally would.
Strange advice though this may seem, DON’T just carry on as normal. She needs to be made to feel loved and supported and it is likely that she will be feeling numb to this. Imagine, if you will, that love is a temperature. A woman without PND may start at a warm temperature and love can heat them further. A woman with PND is starting at frozen. They need more love and more sensitivity in order for them to reach the same result.

Don’t talk about other mums and babies.
Right now she may feel like a failure on every count. Give her no excuse or ammunition for comparison. Her baby is the only one that matters.

ASK HER
“How can I support you?” Don’t ask if you can do anything, ask instead what you can do. Ask how she would like you to behave and ask if she wants more support than you are currently giving.

Remember, she is still the same person she was. Love her, understand her, and help her find her happiness again.

Note: This assumes that professional help is already being given. If this is not the case then it must be a priority to visit the GP. Go along with her if she would like you to.

Why I am going to stop apologising for my daughter

There are several things that babies do not understand.  These include such concepts as sharing, being gentile, patience and timing.  As adults, we know that these ideas are beyond a babies comprehension, and yet, daily, we still hear cries of “No darling, don’t take that” or “I hope you are sharing”.

Babies learn about the world by exploring. And they like to explore with touch and with taste.  These tiny beings are new to the world and show much more curiosity than the standard adult.  But we choose to stifle it.

When our tiny beings arrive in the world we start to apologise.  For their noise, their smells, the time that they consume and the fact they have changed our priorities in life.

Then, at some point in the first year, (a scary 5.5 months for my daughter) they become mobile.  It is at this point that the apologies really start.

“I am sorry she stole your child’s toy”

“I am sorry she poked your son in the eye”

“I am sorry that my daughter ate your daughter’s rice cake”

“I am sorry that she keeps pulling your hair”

“I am sorry that your phone is now in her mouth”

“I am sorry that she is hitting your leg”

“I am sorry that she is tapping you to get your attention”

“I am sorry that she is biting your foot”

The list goes on.  Well, do you know what. I’m stopping. No more apologies. Instead I offer you an explanation.

“She’s too young to understand, she doesn’t mean to take your toy, she’s just interested”

“She is excited by that food, it’s new to her and she wants to learn about the world”

“She likes you, that’s her way of saying hello, if you wave at her then she will learn to wave back instead”

“Ooops, your phone was left in her reach and she is really interested in learning about new things”

I am not going to apologise any more.  My daughter is young and this is not her fault.  She is amazing. She is curious and she is intelligent. She is fearless and she is learning about the world at a speed I can only envy. She does not get tired of discovering new things and her brain takes on so much every day.

We should be embracing the curiosity of our children.   We need to stop apologising for them and instead defend them and help them to explore.

So, to all the babies and toddlers my daughter meets. She is a whirlwind. As long as I can help her she will not stop learning until she understands it all.  I will do everything in power to keep her learning, and to keep her curiosity. I don’t want time and age to kill her journey to understanding and stop her quest for knowledge. I am NOT sorry.

My daughter is a baby, and I will not apologise for that.

Please don’t eat your wand…

You find yourself saying some odd things as a parent. For me, with a nearly ten month old who likes to put anything and everything in her mouth, (and bite!) the most common phrase of all is “…. is not for eating L”

Mummy’s face is not for eating.
This includes, but is not limited to, her chin, her nose, her cheek, her eyebrows and her forehead.

Books are not for eating.
Mummy and Daddy met when they both worked in the same bookshop – are you doing this to wind us up?!

Wands are not for eating.
They are for magic. Also not for eating are your wings, your bunny ears and your Christmas hat. Anyone would think you didn’t want Mummy to dress you up!

Remote controls are not for eating.
And should you decide to sneak up and do so when Mummy’s back is turned, you should not get upset if Mr Tumble or Makka Pakka disappear from the screen.

Mobile phones are not for eating.
They are for talking on. (Or playing games, Facebooking or blogging) There is no ‘eat me’ app installed on mummy’s phone. Please put it back.

Feet are not for eating.
Not Mummy’s feet, or Daddy’s feet. Not Grannie’s feet or Grampy’s feet. Not your Auntie’s feet or the feet of your friend who has just arrived in his pushchair. Eating feet is also not the traditional and socially accepted way of introducing yourself to the other babies Mummy opposite us at Baby Sensory. (incidently, nor is stealing and eating their mobile phone.) Even your own feet, although yours by rights, are not really for eating.

Wires and cables are not for eating.
That’s just silly and dangerous, and it makes me look bad!

That other babies hand is not for eating.
The other mums are starting to talk about you my darling.

Bathtime octopus is not for eating.
I know you love him, I know he protects you from the rubber duck who you find so inexplicably terrifying, but please don’t eat him.

Darling girl. I promise you this, when things are allowed to be eaten it will be clear. That stuff Daddy and I put in your bowl or on your plate when you sit in your highchair- that’s for eating. (not throwing on the floor!)