Here we go again… 

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So we’re expecting our second child any time now. Our first is 2.5 years old now, and it seems simultaneously like yesterday and a million years ago that I was writing this blog about her. Now we’re expecting her little brother, and I can hardly believe we’re going to put ourselves through all this again! They say boys are better sleepers, right…? And at least this time the breastfeeding let down pain won’t come as a nasty surprise, and chances are labour won’t be 44 hours and result in a ventouse delivery with episiotomy. So I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to enjoy this little man more easily, more confidently, and quicker than with our first.  I suffered a little from some blues after the birth, and sleep deprivation compounded it, so I’ll know to look out for that too. And the midwives are on high alert to look for tongue tie again this time & support me with feeding if he does have it, too. 
The only thing in not happy about us my own family. Somehow, my mum, who I asked to look after our toddler when we go into hospital for the delivery, got totally confused & lost what’s left of her mind & booked a holiday to the Galapagos Islands, leaving 2 days before my due date, and returning a week after. Apparently this is my fault, too, because I asked my mum to bring her holiday forward from the originally suggested departure date of a week after my due date. Baffling. I’m just grateful that my partner’s family are considerably more thoughtful & are coming over from Ireland instead, and that we have a very maternal childminder who is desperate to help. My mum still refuses to try to understand why I’m upset, and my dad & sisters think I’m being dramatic & over-emotional (as usual). I’ve given up hoping for apologies from any of them; if something doesn’t make sense to them personally, then it simply doesn’t make sense – these people have no idea what empathy is. Oh well, it’s not the first time my family have disappointed me since I started my own family, & nor will it be the last.

All this stress has made me think about how close modern families are, emotionally and physically, from their wider families. Not so long ago, everyone would live in the same town, on the same street even, and helping out with kids for siblings, cousins, even neighbours, was the norm. Our society now with its emphasis on working families paying for childcare, social mobility & being culturally less altruistic & community-minded I think, means families like us – for whom the nearest member of immediate family is a 2 hour drive away – are much more commonplace. We’ve raised our little girl just the two of us, with occasional visits from grandparents. And one of my sisters has only visited her niece twice. The woman is a stranger to her. 
In some ways this isn’t so bad – my family would have more opportunities to drive us both crazy if they lived closer – but I think about what our little girl misses out on, having a very narrow range of people & ages in her life. I grew up seeing grandparents annually, and it wasn’t until we moved into the same town as my mum’s parents when I was eleven that I finally got to have a proper relationship with my Nan. It was something we both cherished. 
Tell me about your family’s role in your lives – would you like to see more, or less, of them? Has our society changed? Thanks for reading. 

Hadouken! Is your baby a Sleep Fighter?

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So for the past couple of weeks now, our lovely little girl has become a rage monster at nap times and bedtime, and it doesn’t seem to be getting much better. It started initially around 6 weeks ago now I think, when she decided she wasn’t going to be breastfed to sleep any more, and after dozing for half an hour or so would wake up, raring to go. So then we moved onto bouncing her on a gym ball to get her to sleep; this worked for a week or two, then she started complaining about that. So inspired by a relative, we tried breastfeeding whilst bouncing on the gym ball – that worked for around a week but yesterday she started resisting that too.

Nap times are another matter. For a good few weeks we’ve been successfully rocking her to sleep in her buggy, and she’d been happily going for it; to begin with I’d rock all the way through the nap, then after a while I could leave her and she’d nap for 2-2.5 hours (longer than she goes on her own at night!). For both types of sleep we always have white noise on. In the last week, she’s begun shouting at attempts to put her down to sleep in the buggy too, and even my ‘guaranteed sleep inducer’ – swimming then a car journey – has been impacted as she screamed on the way back from the last two swims.

Okay so I know she’s probably still in the 4-5 month sleep regression (she’s 5 months and 2 weeks), and today I remembered to check the Wonder Weeks app to find she’s got another 2 weeks of leap 5 – relationships. So now I’m wondering – not for the first time – if the reason behind her sleep resistance is that she’s worried I’m not going to be there when she wakes up?

The first two naps today were only 30 minutes as she seemed to wake spontaneously from them, but still be tired. I wasn’t rocking her then. I had to get out for a walk (and some chocolate) as I was feeling a bit crazed, and over the course of an hour & half walk she had three mini meltdowns and nearly went to sleep after each one – she kept turning her head to the side, as she always does to sleep, and her eyelids would flutter but then snap open again.

We got home in the midst of the third meltdown, had a break & a play, then I had to work through a fourth to allow her to finally drop off. After 20 minutes (sleep cycle length for babies) she started stirring, and I’ve been rocking her back & forth in her buggy since then, about an hour, as she continues to stir & sometimes even cry in her sleep. I’m actually getting calluses on my hands from the buggy handle, and I’ve had aching shoulders & legs from bouncing her on the gym ball for a few days now (who needs the gym…?).

My partner & I don’t quite see eye-to-eye on my techniques of getting her to sleep, unfortunately. He says relax, have a quiet play, sleep will follow and she shouldn’t cry. He has a point, however now she hates being drowsy even when she’s relaxed it means we miss that sleep window of opportunity when she’s easier, she gets overtired & then it’s all even harder. So part of me thinks go in hard with the sleep-inducing techniques first – loud white noise & fairly vigorous rocking – before she gets overtired. My partner however says, “you can’t shake our child to sleep!” Of course that is true, but also he’s not the one at home trying to get a baby to nap for 2 hours, only to have the nap last for 30 minutes because she’s overtired. Unluckily for me, he’s managed to get her to sleep with no fighting a few times so thinks it’s possible every time – I’m fairly sure it’s not, and that he got lucky & hit the sleep window & now thinks he’s an expert!! Ah, the joys of parenting…

I think she’s currently in one of the deep sleep cycles – she’s gone very still – so with any luck I can get up & go to the loo. It now makes my heart sink to leave her asleep for a minute or two and come back to this little face with her big blue eyes open, looking at me, a bit dazed from waking up – which is dreadful!

In three weeks she’ll be 6 months, and out of leap 5 – so I pray that then I’ll be able to get her off to sleep and move away from her for more than a couple of minutes. I am fantasising now about cleaning the bathroom, watering the plants & cleaning the cat litter tray…!

Self Settling – What Really Happens When You Teach a Baby to Self Soothe to Sleep

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As an attachment parenting convert with a serious mistrust of the ‘crying is not stressful for babies’ belief, I’ve not been convinced about the belief that babies should learn to ‘self-settle’. I honestly can’t begin to imagine our little girl doing that without a giant battle – when she wakes during the night it’s instant rage! So next time the health visitor tells me that to avoid the 2-4 hour bedtime sleep fight that I need to put her down while she’s still awake, I will quote some of this research at her…

Work, vets, baby & chores in one day – I deserve a medal

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So this morning baby decided on a 4:30 explosive poo (one hour earlier than usual) and didn’t think much of going back to sleep, however 25 minutes of vigorous rocking convinced her otherwise, thankfully, and at 5:30 we got back into bed for a lie-in until 7am, when we were both charmingly woken by my lovely other half letting out a huge fart!

So I did my usual Friday start, cup of tea & porridge, then making mine & partner’s lunch for the day – our super healthy wholegrain rice salad with cottage cheese & yoghurt with blueberries & honey. I’m nearly back at pre-baby weight so feeling fine about no naughty food. Then I breastfed baby on one side whilst expressing on the other – I find I get maximum output this way!

At 10 I left my partner to get baby off to nap (something he was worried about as she’s been very clingy recently) to drive to Bristol for a meeting with my bosses. I like my job, but I really don’t want to put baby in full-time childcare yet, and financially to make it even worth it I’d have to go back 4 days a week. I was terrified that going in today & saying that I don’t want to return til at least October would be received badly, but thankfully they’re family men and they were sympathetic. I was so relieved.

Back home I find a shouty baby who’s worried that mummy wasn’t there when she woke up, but who’s quickly consoled. Partner goes back to work, I stuff some food into my face & get out to the shops to get our weekend food shopping. Had a nice chat with the butcher about how it’s been too hot recently for babies, and about his grandchildren.

Back home again, I plan my mission of trying to get two cats into cat boxes.

Both have very recently been in the wars: Dexter had a bite on his back leg a week ago, and although the bite marks have healed, the leg is swollen & the poor boy growls & hisses when it’s touched or he has to move it. Suki got a bite near her tail two weeks ago which we thought had healed, but last Sunday we saw a large patch of hair missing & a deep hole in her – turns out the infected bite had become an abscess which had ruptured. Lovely.

So today they both had check-ups. Suki I thought would be harder to get in the box, we’ve had to chase her round the house in the past as she has a psychic ability to know when she going to the vets. So this time I got the cat boxes ready in the utility room, called them both but pretended not to be interested in Suki, gave them some Dreamies (cat crack) and picked her up, carried her (complaining) to her box & shoved her in before she realised what was happening. Dexter knew something was up as he was hiding under the coffee table, and growled at me when I tried to get him out. I threw a blanket over him, picked him up by his chest & again carried him through & kind of gently shoved him in his box, avoiding touching his poorly leg. If he was feeling himself I think I would have had much more of a fight.

Got up to the vets with baby & Suki shouting, to arrive (on-time! A miracle) to a torrential downpour and I didn’t bring a cardigan. Oh well, everything was going so well, there had to be something. Put baby in the Baby Bjorn & carried both cat boxes in, to the impressed looks of other clients. Fortunately the vet saw both cats at the same time; Suki is fine, healing well & can stop her meds, Dexter’s temperature is down from 40 degrees, thankfully, but his leg is still swollen. The vet said continue on his painkillers & antibiotics & come back on Monday. Again.

Baby got quite worked up at the vets as she needed a nap, but the upshot is she fell asleep almost immediately in the car on the way home, with her white noise on. Fortunately this seemed to drown out the sound of Suki complaining in her box next to the baby.

Back home I tried to get everyone inside as fast as possible but the white noise stopped & baby woke up and started crying, and Suki was still crying, so that was a bit stressful. But got baby back to sleep & gave the cats some milk for their troubles, and I’m finally sat down eating my lunch. My partner will be home in an hour, then him & his friend are going out for drinks & dinner and will no doubt return home drunk & rowdy later! The house is a tip but really, I think I’ve done enough today. The washing up can wait til I’ve at least had a cup of tea, right…? Please don’t make me do it…

Recently rediscovered porridge

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As a kid in the 80s, I used to looooove Ready Brek, the instant porridge stuff that was advertised tantalisingly with radioactive-looking kids.

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As a teenager & in my 20s, I stopped eating breakfast as I always felt nauseous in the mornings, and wouldn’t eat until around 10am, and then always Marmite on toast, if I could – I had office jobs where they allowed eating at your desk. However my keyboard did get pretty crumby & Marmite-y.

When I fell pregnant, I had to start eating breakfast to combat my dreadful morning sickness, and because I was so hungry all of the time. I’d actually eat two breakfasts – toast & Marmite at home, then honey nut Shredded Wheat at work. I got in trouble for the cereal – my boss complained about the chink of my spoon against the bowl, he thought it would sound unprofessional down the phone if customers could hear it! So we compromised and I ate my cereal with a plastic spoon!

I’d all but passed over it as tasteless mush for old people or people dieting in winter, and after trying a ready-mixed flavoured porridge sachet which was utterly disgusting, I wasn’t about to change my mind.

With baby at 5 months, I’m still eating two breakfasts – I’ve tried cutting the second out, but I just end up eating lunch at 11:30 & starving at 4pm, plus I’m breastfeeding and still losing weight slowly. I started eating porridge after buying oats for a ‘breakfast muffin’ recipe, which was delicious but not a long term solution to my breakfast issue as despite being made with yoghurt, oil and honey they were still too fatty. I was searching for something to eat & found the porridge & pumpkin seeds I’d used for the recipe, and suddenly thought – why have I been eating a muffin when I could deconstruct it & eat the source?!

So using soy milk (partner is lactose intolerant so there’s always some in the fridge) I made up the porridge as it’s a little sweeter than dairy milk, added a spoonful of low fat natural yoghurt, added banana & blueberries & the pumpkin seeds & I’ve found a healthy breakfast that I actually like! I get my carb fix from the oats, protein from the soy, energy from the banana, vitamins and minerals from the blueberries & pumpkin seeds & it’s a good source of fibre. I could add honey I guess but I find the soy milk makes it sweet enough. I’m quite pleased with myself, I know that’s silly over a bowl of porridge, but we have to take pleasure in the small victories, right?!

Help – My 4-5 Month Old Is Sleeping Like a Newborn Again (AKA ‘The 4-5 month old babies from hell’)

Our little pumpkin is what you might call ‘sleep-averse’ at the moment, as in, it takes me 2, 3, even 4 hours to get her to go down to sleep in the evenings, and sometimes nap times are met with a great deal of shouty resistance too, so this blog post really galvanised me and just lifted a weight off me in terms of stress about baby’s nightmarish sleeping habits right now.

I have Sarah Ockwell-Smith’ book BabyCalm after reading all its good reviews on Amazon. And I’m a total subscriber to her instinct & baby-led attachment parenting-type support.

Having a baby is helping me learn how to say, “No”.

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I’ve always been a bit too easy to please. I don’t like confrontations, and I hate awkwardness. I’ll usually offer to put myself out for someone else because it’s easier. It’s kind of lead to me being the family doormat as my siblings & parents are pretty bloody-minded (not just stubborn – they’re pugnacious too). They tend to organise things amongst themselves & then just tell me where & when, never considering that may not be convenient for me. Never really caring, I suspect. As I said in a previous post, I’m adopted but both my sisters are natural to my parents, and whilst there’s no conscious divide, there just is one in terms of what’s important to us. To my family, it’s money & apparent status, ambition, not being emotional or ‘bleeding heart’; to myself & my partner it’s being happy, healthy living, emotional honesty & artistic culture. I’m still coming to accept this as I forget sometimes that we’ll never quite be on the same wavelength.

My partner has often told me, pre-baby, that I need to put my foot down with my family. And I still didn’t. However, now I have my own family, and although perhaps I still don’t see my own needs as important enough to kick up a fuss about, now I have a little girl and she IS important enough.

I have a situation with my sister at the moment. She doesn’t realise it’s a situation. She loaned me money just before I fell pregnant. I started paying her back, then stopped as was saving for baby. She recently text me to ask me to start paying her back £50 a month when I go back to work. I told her that after childcare, I won’t actually be earning any more than I receive on statutory maternity pay, and can I start paying her back in a year when my career development loan is paid off as that’s a big chunk of my earnings, and at the moment I don’t even have £50 a month to give her.

Let’s put this in perspective. She works as a medic for the army & NHS, and as such earns I think around three times what I did when I was working full-time. She has a mortgage I know, but she also has a new BMW and just went on holiday to Bali for three weeks. Unless there’s something she’s not telling me, she doesn’t need the money right now. She doesn’t have any children of her own, although she is broody, but her partner is younger than her and doesn’t feel ready yet.

Her text response to my offering to pay her £5 a month until next summer, then £100 a month, really upset me. She wrote that I was taking advantage of her, that I shouldn’t live somewhere so expensive (Bath, UK), that if we couldn’t afford it we shouldn’t have had our baby and that I’m burning my bridges.

Our little girl was not planned, which she knows. So the intimation there, from our baby’s aunt, does not bear thinking about.

My partner left my sister an answer machine message whilst she was on holiday asking her to call him so they can arrange something. What we were thinking is that he can pay some of it back now but she is no longer part of our little girl’s life – it’s the money or the relationship with her aunt. She hasn’t listened properly to the message as she’s just text me saying, “I got the message saying M will pay me back, thanks & let’s put this all behind us,  x”.

‘Put this behind us’? My own sister suggested that we should have got our baby aborted so that I can repay my debt to her.  That is never, ever going to be put behind us.

I think she’s the one who’s burned her bridges, and she has no clue, yet. When she realises no money has gone into her account this will come out into the open. The rest of my family know nothing of it at the moment, and I don’t know how they’ll react. I know they’ll say I should pay her back, but I don’t know what they’ll make of the text comments.

A therapist acquaintance suggested we should “cut her out”. We’re supposed to be having a family barbecue next month, and we’re both nervous about how this could play out. I always said I’d never be one of those people who don’t talk to members of their family, but I just don’t know how our relationship can recover from this.

Baby meet cat, cat meet baby

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Baby has been showing more and more interest in our cats recently, and this morning our cat Suki allowed baby a little stroke! Suki has been enjoying some evening cuddles with me when baby’s in bed, and has been particularly friendly recently – we couldn’t imagine that 8-10 months ago, she used to be so timid & aloof! But going outside has made her a changed cat. And fit such a little cat, she has an enormous, happy purr!

Second ocular migraine, and first bath post-partum

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Yesterday I was washing up from the previous night’s delicious pizza that my partner made, and I was scrubbing the inside of a large white mixing bowl, underwater, for ages to get all the remaining dough off it. When I put it down, I had a visual disturbance in the corner of my right eye – like my vision went zig-zaggy.

This has happened before. Once when I was 17 and very stressed about my A-levels, and I subsequently had my one and only migraine headache which was awful, lasted about five hours and I had to lie on the sofa with my head hanging off it, upside down, in a darkened room, as that was the only way I could get the pain to lessen. The next time was about two months ago, and I only had the visual disturbance; I was really worried I’d get that headache too, so I drank loads of water & rested the best I could, with a two month old baby. Fortunately, the headache didn’t come.

Yesterday  when it happened, I did a similar thing: immediately dranm
drank two pints of water (I was aware I had not drunk enough the day before), closed my eyes and tried to relax. I remembered the visualisations I was taught during my hypnobirth sessions, imagined my colour (yellow) and all the positive associations I built up around it. When I opened my eyes, the disturbance had gone.

On my partner’s advice, to try relax me, last night I had my first bath since I was pregnant, with lots of lovely bubbles and as hot as I could manage – it was great.

Today I looked up causes of migraines, and guess how many I could check off:

1. Caffeine – 2 cups of tea a day, not much but I guess everything adds up
2. Red wine – 2 small glasses the night before
3. Cheese – in particular mozzarella & feta, both on the delicious pizza
4. Over tiredness – goes with the territory
5. Emotional stress – from arguments with my other half recently
6. Flickering light – staring at the reflection of the washing up water in the white bowl

Looking at that I was pretty much asking for it – thank god the headache didn’t come too. I’ve learned my lesson regarding having too much fun…