Posts from the “motherhood” Category

Raising a girl

Posted on 7 November, 2017

When you haven’t blogged for nine months it’s hard to know whether to start with a grovelling apology to, an explanation of your time or to blatantly ignore it. I’ll opt for blatantly ignore it. Phew, glad that’s out of the way.

When Freya was born it brought about a moral panic that I didn’t feel when Ewan was born. Why? Because I believe that the world will open it’s possibilities to her brother in a way that is not available to her through no fault of her own and I panicked about what I would do about that.  I believe she will be held to scrutiny in a way her brother will not.  In childhood he will be expected to be boisterous, loud, strong, muddy and wild. Basically, all the fun characteristics of childhood. She will be expected to be pretty, well behaved, polite and caring. I hear it everyday in parents and childminders. There’s the despair at out of gender characteristics, expectations that children will grow into their roles. “She’s more like a boy these days but hopefully school will help her calm down a bit”. “He’s really gentle isn’t he, not like the rest of the boys”.

In adulthood every statistic across the board says that Ewan will be hired more readily, paid more and promoted faster. Already people point out how Ewan is not a typical boisterous boy. But the truth is he doesn’t have to match any stereotype of a boy or man to have the odds stacked in his favour. His genitalia has decided that. This doesn’t mean women and girls are to be pitied but you can’t look at the wealth of information available and say that the world will treat them the same regardless of their genitalia. It’s just not true. But yet I feel like it can’t be how things really are. Not for my little girl. She has as fair a chance as any man at interview. Statistics say otherwise. She could lead the world if she wants to. Statistics say otherwise. She’ll have her body autonomy respected by those she meets. Statistics say otherwise. She won’t be judged on her looks any more than Ewan will be.   Statistics say otherwise.

So, what do I want Freya to know heading into this world?

After reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s suggestions on raising a feminist daughter I had this sinking feeling that I’m already letting the side down! I didn’t even get past her first suggestion without feeling inadequate.

Be a full person. Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood. Be a full person…You don’t even have to love your job; you can merely love what your job does for you – the confidence and self-fulfillment that come with doing and earning. Reject the idea of motherhood and work as mutually exclusive.”

Feck, staying at home is not in the manual! I’ve dropped the ball on the first suggestion in raising a daughter and I fully understand her reasoning.

When Freya was born I felt like I wanted her to know that I was more than this. I wanted her to know that women can be more the child carer’s, more than keeping the house somewhat tidy-ish, more than a part time blogger. That women have options, greater more valued options than the ones I have chosen.

But as the months move on I’m learning more and more and her strength is teaching me a thing or two.  From hours after her birth the nurses and midwives didn’t comment on her looks but on how strong she was.  Her body showed it’s strength from a few short hours after her birth. I revealed in their words. I soaked them in and I knew them to be true of her.  At nine months doctors were saying she has under developed hips that require intervention yet she was crawling and standing holding on to something and trying to pull herself up onto every object within reach. When Ewan hurt her in play she turns her head and screams at him in defiance and rage. When she drops something she will screech to have it returned to her, we leap with haste. We bow to her will for we know this lady is not for turning.

So as she grows and the world starts to look more at how she looks, her red hair,her weight I think back to those early hours of when her strength was her defining characteristic and I wonder how I exemplify it for her.

In truth she has strength in spadefuls but for me, I’m learning. For now strength means holding my position and owning it.   I want to be at home. I want to be near them when they are so little and the world is so big. I want to be the one picking her up from her nap. I want to be here. We can afford for me to be here at home and I choose it. Too often I try and excuse my time. I think of this time as a gap in my life. I explain my choice with half finished sentences and utterances about the productive things I might do soon. But it is not a gap, it is life in it’s fullest and most mundane. I’m a statistic of a woman who will not progress as quickly as my male peers. I am a statistic of a woman who will struggle to get back to the workforce when the time comes. I am a woman who has chosen this way to parent. It is not the right way or the wrong way but it is my way. I have chosen it. I am still a full person.

I am strong enough for her. I am strong enough for myself. I am strong.

No one’s crying it out

Posted on 19 February, 2017

Forgive me readers for I have sinned. It  has been 7 days since my last blog post. In those nights Freya has slept for 12 hours six nights!! I am guilty of the most grievous deadly sins of sloth. Yes, I have gone to bed many nights at half nine just to reap the full benefits of sleep. I am further guilty of wrath. The bin men with lights and sirens at six in the morning have been victims of my  internal ravings. I have felt envy at all the sleeping homes on the morning/middle of the night that Freya woke early at 5:15am convinced it was time for socialising and eating.   On this day  I felt travel sick for the entire day but powered through with a gluttonous amount of chocolate cupcake decorations eaten, in hiding, in the utility. But of all my sins the one I am least repentant for is pride. After last weeks depressing failures in controlled crying we can now say that she can definitely settle herself and soothe herself back to sleep. She wakes and chats herself to sleep. She rubs the blanket against her cheek as a comfort and despite the fact that every inch of me knows this won’t last I couldn’t care less because this week I slept well, this week our daughter is settled. For this I’m rolling around in the pride and slathering it on. She did it! We survived!  Nobody killed any body! She is, for however fleeting a time, sleeping through the night!

Now I will say a few Hail Mary’s and erase it all from my memory. That horrific first night- gone. Freya’s crying, screams and pleas- gone. My guilt, tears and frustration- gone.

My selective memory will hone a new version of events. In a few years I will say things like ” Freya was always a good sleeper, just like her brother” and ” She never gave us a moments bother” “. In truth crying-it-out took a full week to have any effect and I am definitely not feeling as smug about her sleeping as I thought I might be.  Are we set for a life time of sleep? God no. Our day still starts on average at 6:30am followed closely by her brother in full action mode at 7:00 am but as Steve says ” At least we know she can do it”.  I’m pretty sure tonight we will have a shocking night because the golden rule of having a baby who sleeps through the night is that you never, ever,  say they are sleeping through the night. Let alone publish it on the internet. So in true Catholic form let us never, ever, speak of this again, Amen.

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We continue crying it out

Posted on 12 February, 2017

Let me start by saying it’s all gone pear shaped! After my last post I was hoping to come back and smugly flaunt my sleeping child in front of you. During the week it was starting to look good, the night before last I could see the victorious blog post come together. But it wasn’t to be. It has been a week since we first started the controlled crying method and we are exhausted. I’ve put a night by night record at the end of this post for those of you who are interested but it can be summed up pretty easily. Controlled crying hasn’t worked (yet!).

Our win has been one night she slept through for 12.5 hours. I was thrilled for her, for us, for the possibility of a continuum of sleep filled nights. She was a delight in the morning and because she woke before her brother we started the day with low lights and giggles. It was blissful. This glorious time was the night before last. I thought we had cracked it. While outwardly saying, “We’ll see how tonight goes” inwardly  I thought we had really found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There is a certain misunderstanding that second time parents have more sense than to think one night of sleeping through means you are home and dry. Really second (and I’m guessing third,fourth and fifth time parents) are so knackered that if anything you cling to the dream of a string of good nights sleep so tightly that you believe the mirage. You believe it so completely that you crawl on your hands and knees to the well of sleep and it believe it will never dry up.  Then you wake up. You realise that you are in fact, almost, back where you started.  Last night she woke and tried to settle herself. It briefly worked then she woke with ferocity. She stayed awake and upset from 4am to 5:20am.  She would settle briefly when we comforted her, but it had no lasting effect. I wouldn’t say she settled herself in the end. She just got too tired to cry and drifted off. At 7 o’clock Ewan was ready for action and the house wakes once again. Not a win! No gold. No well filled with sleep.

The big question is with the upset and broken sleep is anyone any better off than before we started controlled crying?

Today with bags under my eyes sizable enough they would have to be checked through I would still say it’s worth it. Some nights she has woken and babbled herself back to sleep. This has been amazing. I’m so proud of her for managing that. We haven’t given her a dummy, for no particular reason other than we haven’t. We haven’t given her a toy because of the seven leaflets I got when she was born about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome which says cots should be barren waste grounds free of all toys,teddies and creature comforts. You did read that right by the way. In Freya’s first week  a lot of midwives called to the house and they ALL gave me at least one leaflet on S.I.D.S until eventually I counted them and refused to take anymore of them.  It’s left an impression on both Steve and I that’s still hard to shake even 8 months later!

Basically we are asking her to settle herself in the confines of her sleeping bag with just a breathable blanket to hold on to. At times she can actually do it. She is, as I should mention more often, amazing!

When I was thinking if this was worth it there are actually plenty of positives I forget when I’m tired and cranky.

1) She has once slept through for 12 and a half hours and woke up happy.

2) She has been woken by drunk people shouting on the street and settled herself back to sleep with ease.

3) She still only wakes fully once a night.

4) She has not had a bottle at night for a week!

5) Now when she’s awake at night she sounds frustrated that she isn’t asleep.Frustration is better than stress (That’s not a major win but I’m really looking to take what I can)

6) I’m hugely proud of her. Not only for the nights that she settles but for the nights that she raises herself onto all fours so that she has us in her eye line as she shouts for us.  She knows we are there and she’s not going to stop calling for us. It’s an odd positive but when my Mum said that crying-it-out worked after two nights when I was a baby I thought, what kind ofa light weight was I? Where was my gumption? Where was my fight? At stupid o’clock  last night I thought of the quote “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” While the poem doesn’t fit the circumstance, especially since at 5:20am it’s more likely to get light than dark, the sentiment is perfect for her. She won’t go down easily she will rage,rage at us until she is answered .I admire her for that and for that she is right. Obviously,I would admire a good nights sleep all the more but for now you have to admit, the girl has grit!

On the negative side she is still waking and crying at night. Last night was the longest we have been awake with her in months, including when we were giving her bottles! Steve deciding to go to the bathroom and he returned as she was settling excited a burning rage in me that should be really reserved for much more serious crimes. But Steve is the nearest human being that I can be cross with so at 4 in the morning he receives the full wave of my internal rants. Similarly, I’m sure the fact that controlled crying was my idea crosses his mind more than once in the small hours. But on one point we are agreed, we are exhausted.

Somehow we are trying to find the momentum for another week of crying-it-out. We are not going back to bottles! There is only one way left. Onwards. We are going to figure out a more set bedtime routine, where Ewan and Freya can both be clean, fed and in bed by 7. We are going to keep going with our adapted form of crying-it-out. The longest interval we have left her crying before going to her is 10 minutes. Theoretically we should be extending that time the longer she is awake but it doesn’t feel right for us so we will stick with our plan. Oh joy!!

Again I will let you know next week how it goes. Thanks for reading and thanks for the responses to last weeks post. To everyone who send lovely messages,left comments here or on Instagram and chatted about our ventures into crying it out thank you. I had expected a bit of negativity so either you are silently scolding the screen or you just decided to keep quiet, either way thank you!!

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A week of crying it out.

Night by Night

Night 1) An hour of hysterical crying, upset and heartbreaking for everyone. See the last post for the ups and downs of it all.  After that terrible night we needed a game plan. So we agreed we would try not picking her and comfort her verbally at a 5 minute then 10 minute intervals for a half an hour. If after a half an hour  it wasn’t working or if she was getting really stressed we would take her up and cuddle her until she settled. Both of us were happy with the plan. It wasn’t strictly by the rules of the method but it was about all we were up for after a terrible night the night before.

Night 2) Woke at about 2:30 am. From her first cry to snoring took only 33 minutes. We didn’t pick her up and unlike the night before she was calmed and was comforted by us talking to her. She was significantly less upset than the night before and within a half an hour she had calmed herself to sleep.

Night 3) Awake and babbling for a while. Getting back to sleep wasn’t helped by Ewan waking also. From when  she started crying it was about a half an hour in total, three visits to her without picking her up, plenty of shushing.

Night 4) A few half wakings and she babbled herself back to sleep. She has become very verbose at different points in the night but talking isn’t  crying so we’ll take that.  I didn’t check my watch because when she wakes in the night I play dead until there’s a problem. But at some point she fully woke and cried. One visit with shushing her calmed her and she settled herself quickly. (This is when I thought we were nearly there!)

Night 5) It took 45 minutes for her to settle. She was much more upset than the previous nights. In the morning we found a poo in her nappy and put the night down to a blip in the radar.

Night 6) She slept from 6 -6:30, wahooooo!

Night 7) She was awake for an hour and twenty minutes. The longest time yet and very upset.

When I look back on each day it’s really not so bad but dreams of a full nights sleep lull my tired mind to a happy place. Fingers crossed that next week we get there, or at least nearer!

 

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Adventures in moving to formula

Posted on 17 January, 2017

In the middle of November our adventures in weaning began. With determination I set about to wean Freya from breastfeeding to bottle feeding and to introduce solids. I decided to do this all at once, I’m still not sure why. I decided to set a deadline of Christmas, again I’m not sure why!

Breastfeeding had gone well. It  was mainly rhythmical and generally she was waking only once in the night (which is still the case but we’re working on it!). It was convenient and manageable. Despite this I knew my time with breastfeeding was done. Mainly I wanted my body back and I wanted Steve to be able to feed her with having to pump for days. Between trying to conceive, an early miscarriage, trying again to conceive, pregnancy and breastfeeding my body had been connected to growing a baby for nearly two years. While I’m forever grateful to my body I wanted it back. I  was happy to be able to breastfeed for six months but I am also happy for Freya to have formula. I am more than satisfied that Freya’s nutritional needs are met by formula . But that’s not to say that I didn’t consider whether this is what I wanted to do at six months or whether it would be better for Freya to keep breast feeding for longer.

Before I embarked on weaning I did what any sensible person embarking on something new does, I Googled it. Yet again I failed to remember that the internet is a dodgy place!

What I found when I went in search of camaraderie was a general opinion that breast feeding is the sanctimonious high ground on which mothers must lay their bodies until their child says otherwise, unless of course you are a selfish witch.  I also found plenty of comments from mothers saying that after all the effort they took to pump breastmilk they wanted a label for their bottles stating that their bottles contain “Pure Breastmilk”  or “100% Breastmilk Inside”because the last thing the would want was to be mistaken for a “lazy mom” using formula.

As a parent you can feel inadequate, selfish and even neglectful without anyone else adding to that. Add a chorus of online voices and  you can end up feeling barbaric for even considering your own needs. But before becoming a parent I was a rational person capable of making reasoned decisions for myself. Other peoples opinions have always had the ability to make me question myself and I’ll admit that nothing feels more personal than a question put over my capability or commitment to raise my children. Even if the people writing online have no idea I exist. But I’ve still got those qualities that I had before becoming a mum. I’m still a rational person capable of reading emotive and sometimes visceral comments on the internet and still making a reasoned decision as to what was best for me. With the same certainty that I knew I wanted another child I also knew that my time with breastfeeding had come to an end and I trusted that feeling completely.

While I was resolute in the decision the process wasn’t exactly planned or smooth. I took on the following thought process.

” Looking online hasn’t helped, let’s just try a bottle here and there and see how we get on. Why isn’t she taking the bottle? This is suddenly really important to me because it’s not working. Great, she’s taking the bottle. Why isn’t she settling? I shouldn’t breastfeed her, she’s not hungry. Okay I’ll just feed her for a few minutes just to calm her but I won’t do it after the next bottle. God my boobs hurt. Why won’t she take the bottle from anyone other than me? The internet said babies generally don’t take a bottle from their mothers so why is she only taking it from me? I hate the internet. My boobs are so sore. Why is she now waking in the night? My boobs are really incredibly sore. She’s awake again but I just breastfed her, that’s not the deal, she’s meant to be soothed for at least a few hours. I wonder what time it is? It’s so dark. At least I can sleep when I breastfeed her. Oh my god I just fell asleep. Where is she? Is she alright?  Have I rolled over her?  Oh yeah I put her in the cot an hour ago. Great I’ll get some sleep before Ewan comes in. Feck it, she’s awake again. She used to sleep at night. I definitely remember her sleeping in the night. What the fuck have I done!!”

You can expect my weaning guide to be published any day now! Transitioning to formula bottles took about 6 weeks with only an occasional breast feed towards the end but for those weeks I was an absolute wreck. The house was filled with half finished bottles, I was breastfeeding for peace and quiet and I seemed to have blown the glory days of waking once a night out of the water. I was now breast feeding her multiple times in the night because I was too tired to try and convince her that she really did like bottles.  I was trying to feed her bottles in the day when I had the most energy for perseverance. Simultaneously I was hauling trough loads of food to my toddler who seemed to be experiencing a bout of hunger that only those who have been directly affected by famine could truly understand!

The word relentless kept spinning in my head. Despite the logical part of my brain knowing that this is a phase. that this won’t go on forever and she was in fact taking the bottle little by little. My exhausted brain took the helm and nothing seemed right.  I huffed every time my toddler proclaimed he was hunnnngggrrryyy not only because it wasn’t humanly possible but because I had no energy to do anything else but feed him. I huffed at Freya refusing her bottle from anyone but me. I sighed at myself for feeding her to settle her and for generally not managing it all better. “Why couldn’t there be just one feed I didn’t have to do?” was my cry to the bottle Gods.

I had made the decision because I wanted my body back but now my body ached. Heavy with milk, it urged me to feed her. I resisted and the pain got worse. When she cried my body would swell further yearning to feed her. I felt like I was going against nature and so sometimes I would feed her when we were scheduled to try her with another bottle. Steve would arrive ready to try a bottle as I had started to feed her. I’d look at him apologetically and wonder what how this was ever going to even out. Or I would feed her after a bottle knowing that she wasn’t hungry but knowing that being breast feed would soothe her instantly. Other times I was so determined not to breast feed straight after her refusing a bottle I would wrap her up and take her for a walk. Being outside would calm her and I felt like we both could reset ready for our next feeding encounter. I was in weaning ground zero and no one was winning.  It was a disaster. When she cried I felt guilt, is this all because I want some me time. How much do I really like myself? Maybe hanging out with me isn’t worth this!

Food wasn’t going much better either. I have since moved to buying food for her for the few weeks it takes for her to eat our meals. She only ever ate two meals that I cooked for her and that was with significant protest. In her defense the meals I made were genuinely awful. Despite various experiments I was so determined it would be a safe consistency that everything tasted of dirty water. So for the moment I buy Ellas Kitchen food pouches mainly because they use the word organic with sufficient frequency as to ease any guilt I have about not cooking for her. Plus when I taste them I actually like the taste, which is more than can be said for the wasteland carrot mixtures I was producing. She’s learning to eat and try new flavours with enthusiasm now.

As for my body. It is all mine again. It needs strength and that’s what I want to give myself this year. My body owes me nothing now but I owe it a bit of TLC, it’s had a busy few years!

As for us we are out of the weaning fog. There was no break through moment but little by little she learned to soothe herself without being breastfed, little by little she took more ounces and little by little I stopped producing milk. At this moment in time a pattern of three has emerged and I’ve never been so relieved to have a structure. I know enough to know that a pattern only lasts so long before teething, a cold a clock going forward or an inexplicable turn of events turns everything on it’s head again. But for the moment all is well. She eats three meals a day. She sleeps for a total of three hours in the day. She drinks three bottles in the day and she wakes at 3:30 in the night. There was no magic answer for how we got her, trail mixed with plenty of errors, patience and frustration. It took longer than I had excepted but a rhythm has appeared and it has quietened the din.

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Loss

Posted on 7 November, 2016

Yesterday I read an article online about how the grief of miscarriage. The author spoke about how common miscarriages are and yet they remain so hidden. When I had a miscarriage in June of last year I was surprised by how many friends and family had experienced the same thing yet had never spoke of it.

The line “I boxed this all up – other people seemed to navigate it without any public displays, I thought, and so should I” rang so true with me. That line was one I thought of into the night last night.

I often question the culture of sharing our lives online. It’s something I worry about whether I will regret elements of this blog in the future. Is it healthy to navel gaze?  Is a family experience shared an experience halved? I think in many ways the answers will unfold over time and for the moment I am (mostly) proud of what I write here ( a few dodgy posts about cleaning silver aside!)

One thing I am certain of is that when you know others feel what you feel or have felt there is a comfort to that. I remember searching the internet for stories of people who had miscarried at 8 weeks. The question driving my searches was “Is it okay to be this devastated when you’ve only held the baby in your womb for 8 weeks”? I was looking for the world to say it’s okay to be sad about this. Women I know beared their losses with such grace and I was a mess.  Now I look back and tell myself I can be as devastated as I need to be.

I still grieve when I think about the baby that would have been born on the 25th of January this year. I think how it happened on our holiday in London on the day we were due to fly back home. I think about us trying to decide if we should keep waiting to see the doctor or leave to get the flight. I think about the woman with flowers saying she had the worst day ever because the bank machines were broken. I think about the month I bled as I slowly passed my baby from me. I think about it all I grieve for the baby and for what could have been but I am okay.

In an attempt to not box it all up and to add my voice to the that of the thousands of women who have been devastated I will share with you a poem I wrote a year ago. There is something so naff and a little cringe worth about amateur poetry but at the time it made sense to write it. Letting myself be sad was the only thing I needed to do at the time. I am more than a little nervous posting this so please be kind and if you can’t be kind then please don’t say anything at all!!

 

A seed, a grain, a blueberry

I never needed a food size to know your being

I imagined you in me with clarity and certainty

I pictured you all the way into my arms

I knew you were coming and I longed for you

But my body never told me we were to be parted

Slowly but with intent she pushed you from me

She slid you from me and rid herself of you

Now, I curl my body to mimic your shape and I drown

I choke on sour thoughts and bile

All the while I grasp for a breathe that doesn’t come

I need you back my darling

I need you back

Too precious for this world, too cruel a thing to happen

I dream of blood and my throat feels the familiar tightening

Again I drown in tears that rise from nowhere and fix nothing

You are lost to me

and for now I am lost to you too.

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I possibly should have warned you, it’s bloody miserable. A year later I remember the sadness as if it was yesterday. I still grieve, I still cry but now I live and love too.

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A Birth Story

Posted on 18 September, 2016

At five in the morning on the 30th of May 2016 I woke up feeling odd. I didn’t feel any contractions, my waters hadn’t broken there were no twinges of any kind I just felt like something was going to happen. Being exactly one week overdue I had lived with this sense of imminence for about 4 weeks now and generally nothing happened. But I felt like wandering so I got up and went to the bathroom. After pottering in the bathroom for a few minutes I decided I definitely wasn’t in labour but I wasn’t ready to give up hope just yet. I turned over the toothbrush timer over and stood in the Goddess yoga pose for three minutes while the sand made it’s way to bottom of the timer. After the three minutes I re-assessed. In the mirror I saw a  41 week pregnant woman squatting in her bathroom at five in the morning when she could be asleep or at least trying to sleep. So I made my way back to bed. I sat at the edge of the bed and began arranging my complicated system of pillows which I had patented in late pregnancy to try to sleep. As soon as I sat on the bed my waters broke, although burst is probably a more accurate description. Surrounded by a litre of water I decided to turn on a light. Steve bolted upright as though he’d been electrocuted.After Steve shouted “What? What’s happening? Whats going on?” for a few minutes everyone calmed down and we decided to ring the midwife at the hospital. She said as to relax, have a shower, make some breakfast and then make my way to the hospital in my own time. The midwife said they will confirm at the hospital if my waters have broken or not and in all likelihood I will be sent home again to labour at home.So, that’s what we did. Steve called his parents who came over to wait in the house for Ewan to wake up.  I showered and started to feel the first contractions (about 5;20am), nothing major, they only lasted for a few seconds but it was enough for me to start thinking it was ‘Game On!’ He made me breakfast, stripped the bed and we both went about the house being giddy. I was also relieved. I had been induced three years ago with Ewan and I was excited that labour had started naturally this time.

On my first visit to Cork University Hospital with this pregnancy I had signed up for the Domino Scheme (something that wasn’t available in Cork when I had Ewan). The Dominio Scheme is a midwife led scheme for people who want to have a natural birth in the hospital. The main reason I signed up for it was that if all went well with the labour then baby and I could be home within six hours of giving birth. To me this was ideal. There were moments during the labour with Ewan when I was very glad to have a medical team right there and I was relieved to be in a hospital  but there was nothing about staying in the hospital overnight that I wanted to replicate. The sooner I could be back in my own bed the better.

Another reason I had picked the Dominio Scheme was that there was a small number of midwives so the idea is by the time you get to labour you have met the midwife who will be delivering your baby. But because it’s a small team of midwives who run the scheme there is only one Domino midwife on duty in the hospital at a time. So when we arrived in the hospital, at about half past six in the morning, the Domino midwife was busy helping someone else in labour and no one really knew what to do with me. I was admitted to the emergency section of the hospital and they hooked me up to a trace machine to listen to the babies heart beat. Contractions were getting stronger at this point and I had to be as still as I could manage and that wasn’t easy. After 20 minutes or so they knew baby was doing well and I was free to move around again. Once I had the freedom to move around again I was cheery again and ready to deal with contractions.

Looking back at the first time around I felt a bit conned by hypnobirthing. In hindsight I had really latched on to the premise that pain is a state of mind and with the right breathing and relaxation I could feel the contractions or surges as waves of pressure rather than pain. However, if you have ever stepped into the induction ward in CUMH with more beeping machines than any one room can handle you realise that the pressure to get out of that room does not lend itself to relaxation. So when I did feel pain during my first labour I didn’t put it down to the fact that I was in the middle of a long induced labour. Instead I felt like I was doing it wrong, I felt like I was failing to relax and so this pain was a result of me not feeling relaxed and ready enough. Somehow I had ignored a key piece of information during my first pregnancy. That is labour hurts but the very longest that pain lasts is three minutes and then your body rests. It’s not a lingering pain,it comes in a wave and passes, there are no contractions hangovers after each one. Once it’s done, it’s done. At this point they were lasting about a minute and a half yes they were painful but they were not cripplingly so and every one of these was bringing my baby a tiny tiny bit closer to us. That was my focus. I knew I didn’t want these contractions to stop. I wanted them to get stronger because the stronger they became the nearer baby was. The contractions needed to keep going and I was willing them on.

Standing circling my hips was the most comfortable position for me and labouring in that position was really managable. By now it was about seven o’clock in the morning, maybe later, Steve and I waited in the emergency waiting room while I held on to the flip lid of a bin during contractions! I wasn’t in any rush to go back into the emergency room so this limbo while they figured out what to do with someone in the Dominio scheme when there was no Dominio midwife suited me perfectly.

We spent our time between contractions talking about how Ewan would be delighted showing his grandparents where we keep the breakfast stuff  and then we made awkward conversation with a couple from Mallow who wanted to know if I thought this was the real thing or a trial run. I thought this better be the real deal because I was doing great at this but if this was a trail run and some elaborate water prank played by Steve  then I was going to be in trouble  when it came to the real thing. At about half seven or so the midwife in the emergency room called me in to do an examination. I think the intention had been to send me home to labour,  which I would have been happy with because our conversation with the Mallow couple had come to an awkward close when I started to ignore them. When she did examine me she panicked, “You’re four centimetres, you shouldn’t be here at all, you need to go down to the labour room.” I laughed at her tone. She sounded like I had deliberately tricked her. It had taken me two days to get to four centimetres in my first labour so to be sent to the labour ward after only two hours in labour made me very happy indeed.

I decided to walk down to the labour ward rather than get the lift. This really worked. With each step I could feel the contractions getting stronger by the time we got down to the labour ward the contractions were a lot stronger and coming faster together. It was twenty to eight and I was told that although I wanted to use the pool I would have to wait for the Domino midwife to start her shift at 8. Waiting for her to start her shift, do whatever paper work was needed and maybe examine me before I could get in the pool meant the pool was seeming further and further away and it all felt like needless red tape. I replied without a shred of politeness “Could YOU not fill the pool!”. Not my finest moment but Steve reckons she took it well and ran away with sufficient speed. I never saw her again but she did fill the pool.

In the next few minutes I got two pieces of good news. First the midwife coming on duty was Linda. I had met Linda at the Domino Scheme ante natal classes and she had won me over by bringing baked goods to the classes and generally being a wonderful warm person.She is one of those people who you just know you can trust. She is warm and calm and the midwife I had clicked with the most. The relief to know it was her that was going to be there to help deliver my baby made me feel so glad that I had chosen the scheme and excited that everything was slotting into place. She started her shift early by which time the pool was ready and the water was warm.

Getting into the pool was heavenly. All the good things you hear about labouring in water are true. The warmth of the water is so relaxing. Being in a room without machines, with mosaic tiles and dimmed lighting makes you feel like you’re on a weird spa day rather than in a hospital. But for me I think the reason I enjoyed getting into the pool was the feeling that I had made. I got to the end of the pregnancy without pre-eclampsia, I had got to the end of the pregnancy full stop. I was in labour, this baby was coming. The early miscarriage before this pregnancy made me doubt this pregnancy for a long time. But my body had done it. It had carried a health baby to full term whose heart beat was measuring consistently strong  and regular. This was a body I could trust. I was with the man I trust implicitly and when I opened my eyes after each contraction they met the eyes of the midwife who  I had wanted to be here ,who I trusted. I felt safe and ready.

From here time does that odd paradox where the hours seem to wheeeesh by but at the same time I was aware that things are happening slowly. From getting into the pool at about ten past eight in the morning nothing felt rushed, no one pointed to the clock things just went the way they went. The trainee midwife was excellent at reading the babies heart beat while I was in the pool I was free to move as little or as much as I wanted. The policy of midwives on the Dominio scheme is to let you lead. If you and baby are doing well then they just go with it. So when I wanted to get out of the pool she helped me out, when I wanted back in she helped me in. When I wanted to suck on the gas and air tube as though my life depended on it she helped me out. This might seem like a small thing but having the freedom to move around, squat, stand, move in the water,  felt really good. Having had my first labour as a two day event with a lot of time being glued to the bed when I needed to be monitoured it made me feel in control and at ease to move around as and when I wanted . It also helped me relaxing knowing I didn’t need to be monitored to the same degree. They checked the baby’s heartbeat  with a mobile device  so I didn’t have to be hooked up to anything.

During the labour not much went on in my head. Other than thinking how much I liked the water all I kept repeating in my head to breathe out longer than breathing in. Most breathing techniques can be summed up with that and it worked for me.  I had practiced lots of breathing rhythms with both yoga and hynpobirthing but during labour I found counting too annoying and also I got frustrated if my breathe didn’t make the designated number. I also stuck with one image of blowing a bubble very slowly and very carefully. In the ante- natal class Linda (the same Linda who was smiling at me from the edge of the pool)  had given us all bubbles and tasked us to blow the biggest bubble we could. The slow long breath that you need to blow a decent bubble was perfect for labour and who doesn’t like bubbles!

And so that’s how labour went, me breathing long breathes imagining bubbles, warm water in the pool, labouring on the toilet, labouring on a mat on the floor on my hands and kness, squatting,leaning against an excercise ball, some empty wretching,a relaxation CD, sucking on the gas and air tube with determination, banging the gas and air tube off the side of the pool to get the water out, the sound of running warm water against my back and a lot of hip circling and moving, and when I needed it Steve’s hand in mine. This was going better than I had hoped but at some point I started to notice that time was ticking on and I wanted to know how close I was. Linda asked if I’d like to be examined and I jumped at the chance. This was at about 2:45 pm and I was fully dialated. She said I could feel the top of the head on the next contraction. When people told me that midwives offered that I always thought why would you want to do that but this was my ninth hour of labour and feeling the top of the baby’s head was literally like feeling the light at the end of the tunnel. As I felt the head I started to think that this was it. The baby was coming. I thought once I could feel the head that one or two more pushes and baby would be in our arms but that wasn’t the case. I was out of the pool and squatting on a mat. Waiting for contractions to come felt like years and they were so brief I felt let down. I knew I needed long contractions to get this baby out but baby seemed perfectly happy to stay where he or she was.

Then came a series of contractions running into each other like backed up traffic. One after the other. Still squatting I tried to stay with each one. I was thinking everything at this point. I was listening to Steve’s voice and thinking he sounded excited and nervous. I was thinking of Ewan and how he changed our lives. I was thinking of my friends not so pleasant description of her birth. I thought of a blog about a woman who spelled the names of her children in her head during each contraction. But when it came to the end of her labour she couldn’t remember how to spell their names or barely think what their names were. Then I felt a burning sensation  and I thought of the song Ring of Fire. Then I remembered it was by Johnny Cash. I sang it in my head. “It burns burns burns the ring of fire”. At that strange moment where the pain was intense I had that clarity. It sounds mad but remembering the words, the singer, the title made me feel in control. I am here.  The pain hasn’t won over and made me lose my words. I’m still here. I’m so close to having my baby here and I can feel it all.

I was holding onto a pole which was by the steps into the pool. With my feet pushing down into the mat on the floor I raised myself slightly and squatted down again. This baby was coming. Voices raised, I squeezed the metal pole and handed myself over to the surges. Linda said in the next contraction your baby will be here. She said she would help me lift the baby to me. I don’t know how she said it or what noises I made in return to let her know I was ready but with the next surge my baby slid from me and I raised her body to my chest.I remember the movement of it. I couldn’t say how Linda had helped me or who was sitting, standing, squatting where but the sensation of losing the baby from my body and with one swoop feeling her delicate weight against my chest was breathtaking. She was here. It was without question the fullest I am ever likely to feel in my life.  Our baby was here.

She was born at 3:33pm on the 30th of May and weighed 9 pounds 1 ounce. But at the time we didn’t know any of that. We didn’t check what gender she was, no one weighed her, we didn’t even marvel at the red hues in her hair. Instead we reacted to the the changing tones of voices. Linda and the student midwife Sarah were rubbing her briskly. Freya was quiet and blue. She didn’t cry. They shook her hands, spoke loudly to her and rubbed her back vigorously. At first I didn’t pay much heed but as they continued doing it I looked at Steve. He too started rubbing her anxiously. She was now a purple colour and still did not make a noise. I thought she was just calm. I wanted everyone to stop. But the longer the jostling continued the more my mind started to wander to where I wasn’t allowing it to go. Within moments she gave me what has since become her trademark face of pained irritation. Through rose tinted glasses I saw her as annoyed by the fuss but perfectly calm and well. Steve later said the change of tones was because she seemed listless and her colour was not good. But within moments she made the noises they had wanted to hear. She coloured as she was meant to and she lay on us.

Everything seemed to stop after the birth. There was no medical team around. Freya wasn’t taken from us to be weighed or dressed. Linda left us to it and Steve and I held her for two hours on the floor of the pool room. It was bliss. Our baby girl was here.

To hold her undisturbed for that long without having to worry about getting her dressed, moving ourselves or do anything other than gaze at her was a joy. Life has moved up a gear since she was born and time to stare at her uninterrupted is brief. Steve and I seem to be constantly busy but for those first few hours we had nothing to do but hold her and gaze at her.

In time we made our way for me to get stitches then up to the ward to wait for discharge. The nurses on the ward were fantastic at lining up all the right people so that Freya and I could get every check that was needed and we could go home as I had wanted.

We said goodbye to Linda and at 10:00pm we left for home. As I walked to the car it felt surreal only hours before Freya had come into the world now we were bringing her out into the night. It was a balmy night and I felt glad that her first introduction to the world was one of heat and comfort. We drove like elderly snails home and made ourselves some breakfast. it’s hard to know what to eat at half ten at night when you’ve just had a baby. Ewan was with his grandparents and we stayed up as long as our tired bodies let us stare at her.

Every morning of her first week a midwife from the Dominio Scheme called to see us. When I signed up for the scheme my main concern was getting home quickly after the birth. What I hadn’t planned for or thought about was how nurtured I would feel after the birth. Being visited every morning meant that any little niggles or questions that I had about Freya or myself were dealt with. She was so well cared for and checked by this community of women that I partly wanted to keep them around. But when Friday came I was ready to say my goodbyes to the morning visits and settle into life as a family of four. A family of four. I still get a kick from saying that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Breastfeeding in vintage clothes

Posted on 12 August, 2016

One of the biggest hurdles for me with breastfeeding is figuring out what to wear. My favourite styles are vintage shift dress, actually shift dresses of all kinds and almost everything else I wear has a boat neckline. To breastfeed in most of my clothes would involve sitting in my underwear with a dress scrunched up around my neck. Not a great look.  While breastfeeding vests under my tops and a pair of jeans seems to solve a lot of problems I miss the joy of a nice dresses. The big reason I favour dresses is that it is one choice and I’m done. Only one item that needs to be clean and dry. You don’t have to match anything with anything. I repeat one thing and I’m done. That’s the way to do it.

Plus a good dress makes me happy.

For the moment I am choosing to breastfeeding and while it’s going well I don’t plan on investing in a new wardrobe to facilitate feeding for a few months. So my mission was to buy a few vintage pieces that I can wear when I’m not breastfeeding but which also allow me to get my boobs out at a moments notice !  By Jove I think I’ve got it.

Turns out all you really need to rock a breastfeeding vintage dress is buttons. Well that and some give in the material but essentially buttons do the job. Also Cork has such great vintage shops that I managed to buy vintage and local, score!

First up is this seventies number from Turquoise Flamingo. I LOVE this dress. It’s really comfy, light enough to wear now and in the winter some tights will give it another lease of life.

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Generally, I do wear shoes but it was early in the morning with a small window of opportunity so the search for my sandals was abandoned.

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In real life I wear it with a giant black nappy changing bag but for the picture I added a dainty bag that I picked up from Mother Jones Flea Market.

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The second dress I’ve found is this pink beauty from Mercury Goes Retrograde. It’s impossible for me to go into this shop and not buy something. Trust me I’ve tried and it is actually impossible!

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In the few weeks that I have owned this vintage gem I have worn it to a wedding, the supermarket, the beach and Freya’s naming ceremony making it the best catch-all dress of all time.

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Vintage skirts and shirts are next on my wish list.

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Six week myth

Posted on 3 August, 2016

When Ewan was born we fell for the six week myth in a big way. Never fear we thought, this tiredness will settle into a manageable routine  at 6 weeks. He will be a social smiling, musically attentive bundle of joy in a home where routine  reigns supreme.

This myth is a powerful one not just because every baby book in the world perpetuates it but because you really really want to believe it. If your baby is coming up to six weeks and this post has the potential to burst your bubble then please be assured that plenty of parents have told me they thought things “settled down” at six weeks. I however am wondering how the publishing companies have got to them to feed the lie so convincingly.

Contre to the popular belief that life will once again “fall into place” at six weeks I am more inclined to believe that life unravels a little when your baby reached six weeks.

With both Ewan and Freya I floated about for the six weeks of their lives. Everything was amazing. I viewed the birth as transformative, night feeds were a chance to gaze at their beautiful squidgy faces, getting them changed after another nappy failure was a chance to seem them in an even cuter outfit.

I read once that while filming the tv series Moonlighting the camera lens was smeared with a light layer of vaseline to give Cybil Shepard a soft focus and  hazey glow. For me life for the first six weeks had  that same vaseline lens quality. I remember one night of feeding Freya at 3am, 5am and 7am declaring chirpily that we had a great nights sleep. I really believed it too. Some people call it a love bubble, some say its hormones either way after six weeks it popped.

Freya is now 8 weeks old and I can fully declare that a cumulative tiredness has hit hard. Don’t get me wrong, by any standard Freya has been an incredible baby. This is not bias on my part it is just a fact! She spent seven hours in a fancy pants hotel while I eked out every last drop from my afternoon tea and didn’t cry once.(Admittedly I did put a breast in her mouth anytime she considered making a sound but you do what you need to when there is cake involved!).  When all is well she goes to bed at about 10:30pm and feeds once sometime in the dark confusing hours of the night and will wake again at about 7am. She is simply fantastic. But the fact remains it is still so hard. The bags under my eyes have joined together to make one large puffy bruised coloured hold all. I no longer rejoice at changing her outfit. Instead I struggle to remember what still fits her and why I was getting her dressed in the first place.

Now if the books said at six weeks you will feel so tired it will take you three laps of the house to remember what it is you went looking for then I would buy that book! This time around I knew a routine doesn’t fall from the sky and I wasn’t expecting the final piece of the routine jigsaw to slot into place and it certainly didn’t. My only parenting wisdom I have acquired in the last three years seems to be it’s bloody awful and heart swellingly amazing all in the one day. Once you realise that then it takes a bucket load of pressure of.  If I stand over Freya with a list of expectations of behaviors and routines no one wins. If I hibernate on the days it starts off badly we’d never do anything. So instead I’m going with the classic “winging it” approach and so far we have a household of four people who have no routine, are wrecked but happy.

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Freya

Posted on 5 June, 2016

In the space of a week baby Freya has changed our lives immeasurably. As she is our second child the anticipation before her birth was very different. When I was expecting Ewan I was so excited to jump into the unknown that I prepared, nested and imagined for months on end how it would all be. Expecting Freya I didn’t focus on the pregnancy to the same extent. This time I let it happen and watched it unfold rather than anticipating each next step. I will admit that my excitement about the birth was tempered with a large amount of trepidation. As the pregnancy moved on I started to remember what true exhaustion felt like and wondered how I would manage the feeling of depletion and an energetic three year old at the same time. I worried about my patience evaporating and me losing my cool with Ewan and everyone around me.  I worried about  how Steve and I would survive the first few months of complete change that a second child would bring.

I could still worry about all these things but something else happened that I had forgotten all about. I had forgotten what it feels like to feel a rush of love for someone new, our baby girl.  Whispering “I love you “to Freya as I kiss her head I’m left over thrown, lost for a second or two with only her. The weight of those words feel so heavy that sometimes they get caught in my throat. Over the week the realisation sinks in that I will love her forever.  Even when she doesn’t ask for it, want it or need it I will always feel it for her. Like the incessant blue bottle fly who refuses to fly out the window my love will hang in the air, never pausing, never relenting ( although hopefully less annoying!)

I feel this love for Ewan but yet I never stopped to imagine that I could feel it again. Maybe because I couldn’t have imagined it. I couldn’t replicate or dream of this feeling because it’s unimaginable that it would have happened again. It knocked me sideways the first time surely I’d have developed some immunity, some protection against its strength but I have no resistance. I am, once again, over thrown.

I stare at her as her eyes roll with the joy of milk and think she’s complete perfection,just  like her brother before her. The worries, the delusional tiredness, the tensions can wait because this is not a week for those things. This is a week for Freya.

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We need some practice with getting four of us into one picture!

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Easter hunts and disappointments

Posted on 27 March, 2016

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If this Easter has thought me anything it’s that my toddler handles disappointment much better this 32 week pregnant woman!

Saturday’s schedule was all laid out we were going to an Easter hunt with Peter Rabbit. The build up for this hunt was epic. We were reading Peter Rabbit, watching the cartoon, talking about it daily. Ewan had a list of things he wanted to bring with him to show Peter Rabbit ( a carrot and a little rabbit light his cousins sent him!) It was all systems go on Saturday morning!

That was until they cancelled it two hours before hand because of rain!  I was devastated!  stood in the pouring rain declaring that it wasn’t bad enough to cancel. I predicted breaking the heart of our nearly 3 year old. The angst of letting him down was more than my pregnancy hormones could take! Ewan  however took it just fine. “Okay” was pretty much his response. We were convinced he didn’t understand gravity of the situation and explained again. “We’ll do a hunt at home in the garden” we promised hoping to ease the devastation he was clearly feeling somewhere deep deep in his soul. “Okay” was again response. After a beat he checked, “Can I wear my wellies in the garden?” When he got a “yeah sure”  he was as pumped about our homemade hunt as he had been about the other plan.

And so with about a five minute prep we headed into the garden to find some very badly hidden chocolates.

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We got a bout of sunshine (see the weather really wasn’t so bad!) and he was thrilled with his foraging skills!

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The chocolate covered face explains how the rest of the day went.

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My theory is proven again by this mornings venture into making hot cross buns. Last night I hastily read a recipe for hot cross buns and thought that would be a lovely thing for the 3.75 of us to do together on Easter Sunday.

This morning I went again for the big build up. I showed Ewan the recipe in the paper. I made him wait for something to eat because these hot cross buns were going to be amazing and he would need his full appetite to appreciate them. I sang the Hot Cross Bun song on loop. The whole works! Once we started into making them I discovered they have to rise for one hour. Then you shape the dough into buns, then they rise for another hour! Then you bake them for nearly an hour!

I read the recipe out loud. I read it to myself. I read it out loud again while I ran my finger under the words. Finally it sunk in.”Nearly three hours” I exclaimed! “What? These are about 20 cents each in Lidl. How can Lidl afford to charge 20 cent for something that takes three hours to make? They’re only buns, how would they need three hours!” The rant went on. Ewan shrugged his shoulder and said “We have to wait” and off he went.

After one hour of waiting I suggested a walk. It turns out no-one in the house is willing to argue with a hungry pregnant woman so despite bursts of hail stones we set out. While I managed to keep the rant to an internal one at this point I was still in shock at a few insolence of the newspaper not to highlight in giant capitals that these so called buns take three hours to make. Ewan went about his day, finding chocolate where he could. He had forgot we’d even made dough in the morning. By the oven timer finally went the hot cross buns came as a magic surprise to him!

Who would have thought toddlers could be zen? Turns out as long as there’s chocolate somewhere to be found nothing else bears worrying about. He might very well be on to something!

 

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