And now for something completely different…

I’ve been absent for a little bit, I haven’t really known what to say. I live close to Manchester, and like everyone else I reeled in shock after the events of the 22nd May and then we watched as Manchester banded together and held each other.

We saw parts of our town blocked off as arrests were made and the police and emergency services did their job.

I didn’t want to ignore the events, and just not mention them, they’re too close to my heart for that. But I don’t want to capitalise on them either. This isn’t for likes. My heart truly goes out to all those affected by what happened, and our thoughts are very much with them.

 

 

Moving Day: Our Lives in Boxes

I’ve been sat in amongst the boxes of our life in this house for about an hour now. We’re moving out today so we can get some essential work done. It is work that means we can live safely in our house for as long as we choose to stay here, and although we’re only going to be away for a few months I still feel a little, bereft?

My husband and I moved quite regularly before we bought this house three years ago. We first moved in together in 2011, and moved five times in following years. Every move is tinged with a bit of sadness, because you’ve had a life in that house – not matter how short a time you lived there.

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This time I feel sad that some of Pippin’s milestones might happen whilst we’re not living in our family home. I feel sad that some of our most treasured belongings are going to be in the loft, wrapped in bubble wrap.

I also feel sad because we’ve moved five times before, and I know just how long unpacking takes.

I will miss our house whilst we’re gone, but realistically I know that we couldn’t have stayed here much longer without making these changes. And I know that it is infinitely better to do it now, whilst Pippin is very young and it won’t affect her too much, than when she is older and more conscious of the change.

So today we will leave our home, and know that when we come back it is going to look very different. But it will also be a family home that we can stay in for as long as we need to, and that is very exciting.

8 and a bit months in – 8 and a bit months out: and my (abridged) Birth story

SONY DSCPippin never actually spent the full nine months inside, but for comparison reasons, here’s my big girl at 37 weeks old with a picture of my giant bump at 37 weeks pregnant:

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Obviously, I never made it to the full 40 weeks. As I had Gestational Diabetes I was having growth scans every couple of weeks, and at 34 weeks the Dr’s felt Pippin had had a bit of a growth spurt. They felt that if the growth spurt had continued at my 36-week scan it would be best if they scheduled an elective section for 39 weeks.

Gestational Diabetes is Diabetes that develops during pregnancy. It is usually diagnosed during a screening between 24 and 28 weeks, called an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT). Basically, they take a blood sample, make you drink and sugary drink before waiting and taking another sample. Usually, you’ll only have this screening if you’re having symptoms or considered to be in a high-risk group for developing Gestational Diabetes. I was high-risk, because of my weight and because I have a family history of Type 2 Diabetes.

I managed the Diabetes through my pregnancy just by diet, and I had to take my blood sugar levels either before or after meals, dependant on the day. I carried around my little kit and book and couldn’t indulge in all the sugary snacks I really wanted to. C’est la vie.

Theoretically managing your blood sugar levels well should help reduce complications, but there are increased risks such as macrosomia (a large baby, which can lead to birth complications), perinatal death and neonatal glycemia (baby having low blood sugar).

What developing Gestational Diabetes had meant for me was that they were unwilling to let me go ahead with a home birth, as Pippin would have to be monitored after the birth to check that the blood sugar levels were normal.

So, at the 36-week scan, they decided that Pippin was well on track for an 11lbs birth weight, and there was absolutely no way they were willing to let me go to full term. In the end I was booked in to be induced on the 25th August. They didn’t want to leave it any later in case I went into labour ahead of schedule.

So I went in to be induced on the 25th. This is where I am going to be fairly brief. Frankly, the whole experience was a hell, and not something I have come to terms will yet.

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I had my first pessary at about lunchtime on the 25th,  and I think my waters were broken at about 3 pm on the 26th.

I had more monitors than I care to think about attached to me, and I was pretty much immobile. I managed the pain quite well, at first, by just breathing. I then had gas and air and then diamorphine.

After fourteen hours they decided that 4cm was probably as dilated as I would get, and I was prepped for a C-section. Pippin came out crying and was an 8lbs13 little girl, which is pretty much what they estimated she would be at that gestation.

Unfortunately, I had quite a bit of blood loss, and we both had infection markers. I got given some antibiotics, and Pippin got taken away to have a cannula fitted for her medication. Then they were still unhappy with her breathing, so they took her away and put her on oxygen and a nasogastric tube. She wasn’t allowed to feed because they were concerned she might aspirate some of her milk.

After three days she was allowed back on the main ward with me, and after a further two, we were allowed to go home. Which was nice.

Although, those first few weeks are a whirl of medication and injections. I was on lots of tablets for pain relief and for infections, and I had one injection a day for six weeks after the birth to stop blood clots.

The birth wasn’t ideal, but we got through it relatively unscathed. But it still feels pretty raw, and I don’t much like talking about it – even eight months on. I know that I’m dealing with some negative emotions around the birth, emotions I will probably have to face at some point. I’m not there yet though, I’m just not ready to relive it. Not right now.

Confession Time

It is probably completely typical of the way things are at the moment, when at 03:53am I have the terrible realisation that some bloke is coming to measure for a new carpet tomorrow, I haven’t done any washing so I have no clean underwear or trousers and, most horrifying, the bloody seat from the Jumperoo is in the washing machine. Where in God’s name am I supposed to put the baby whilst I shove everything in the hall cupboard so the carpet man doesn’t think I am untidy?

I suppose he’s going to so shocked by the fact that I am going to have to greet him with no trousers that he might not actually notice the fact that my house is an utter tip.

I think I had my shit together for about a week, a week where I got my daughter and myself dressed and downstairs before breakfast, we went into the kitchen and I made her food whilst tidying up. That week I even hoovered every day. It was a blissful week were absolutely everything was lovely.

Then my husband started a row of night shifts and it all went to shit.

The only advantage to my significant other doing the night shift is that there’s more room in our double bed. Everything else about it is completely pants. It isn’t just about the fact that he’s not there overnight, that’s probably the easiest part of it. It’s the fact that he’s not there in the morning, afternoon or evenings too.

I love my daughter, that goes without saying, but I love her that little bit more when I can have five minutes to myself. Or manage to wash some clothes. Or even, and this really is the Holy Grail, have a wee in peace.

Bedtime Tales

Here’s an admission about probably my biggest fail at being a parent.

Are you ready?

I have never, in eight months, managed to get my daughter to have a proper bedtime.

It’s not the only aspect of parenting in which I feel I have no control and absolutely no idea what I am doing, it is probably up there as one of the most difficult parts though.

 

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When she was very tiny, before we had worked out that her milk allergy was causing so many of her problems, her dad and I would take turns to stay awake and hold her upright. If we laid her down she would scream and scream, and her wind was just horrendous.

Gradually this got better, she could sleep on her back. By this point she was a few months old. I would start the evening by giving her a bedtime feed in the rocking chair in our bedroom, before placing her in her cot. We got a few hours, and then she would wake up.

Back to the rocking chair I’d go, nursing her back to sleep, before carefully putting her in her cot. And this continued. Until I became so exhausted that I brought her into bed with me, and my husband relocated to the spare bedroom.

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Pippin has always been a frequent and long feeder. Which is perfectly normal. I didn’t realise this and I spent so much of those early months trying to get her into some sort of routine – which was ultimately completely pointless for us.

Napping really wasn’t going much better. All the mum’s who had babies around the same time as me were like “I got so much done during his nap time.” whilst I was drowning in a sea of dirty undies from eight weeks prior. I was committing the massive sin of allowing my daughter to fall asleep on the breast. Which wouldn’t have been such a massive problem if I could just put her down afterwards!

As I am typing this Pippin is asleep in the bed next to me. Next to me is where she sleeps, where she has slept for most of her life now. (I don’t need lectures on the safety – we try and do it as safely as possible.) This is just what works for us. She is still waking to feed fairly frequently in the night, maybe five or so times now.

I have had lots of advice about how to stop this, as has my husband. Some of my favourites include:

  • Don’t feed her in the night. (What am I supposed to do, leave her crying then?)
  • Leave her to cry, she’ll soon get fed up. (Ah, so that’s a yes then)
  • Give her some rusk in her bottle. (She doesn’t have a bottle!)
  • Give her solids to “fill her up” (This was around the three-month mark)
  • Stop breastfeeding

My absolute favourite piece of advice was given to my husband. We should put some whisky on a dummy and give it to her, apparently it will knock her right out. It worked for all four of this individual’s children.*

 

I’m not quite sure what it is we need to stop. Pippin appears to be thriving, and I’m happy doing it this way because it works for her and for us. I think I would have been happier with things a lot sooner had I just accepted them for what they were and not tried to fight them. Sometimes I do wish she would just go to sleep alone, and I do get cross about the whole thing and wish we’d just got her to sleep in her own cot. I know though this isn’t forever and, when she does sleep in her cot, I miss cuddling her. I also wake up about 50 million times just to check she’s breating. Which is completely typical!

*I hope I don’t need to point this out, but folks, do not give your babies whisky. This is bad parenting. Bad. Babies should not have whisky.

#mumlife

I’m starting to realise that there is definitely strength in numbers.

Being a mum can be incredibly lonely. You’ve created this new life and, probably about 90% of the time (in my case 99%) you have no idea what you’re doing. You have questions: is this normal? Am I doing this right? Should my baby really breastfeed this much? (The answer is yes, your baby will breastfeed until the point you think they will actually explode).

Your life has changed beyond anything you could have imagined, and you go from being able to basically do what you want to having to plan for a quick toddle round the garden.

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Katie Kirby probably puts it best in Hurrah for Gin:

…this was the point in my life where everything shifted from being all about me to it all being about somebody else. I couldn’t nip to the corner shop to buy a bag of pickled onion Monster Munch, grabbing my keys and purse on the way out; I had to relearn how to live, putting another person first. (Kirby, 53)

And she is completely and utterly right. Also, pickled onion Monster Munch are THE best crisps. Its just a fact.

It becomes so much harder, impossible even, to carry on as you were. You just can’t, and you need people to help you through the transition to mum. You’d think the whole pregnancy thing would prepare you but, despite the limitations on soft cheese and the discomfort, you can still pretty much enjoy a bit of free time. The concept of free time is null and void when the baby arrives.

This is why it is so important to find your group, people who just get it. I have a supportive husband, and I have family around. But I do think it is different for my husband, and yes my family are supportive, but they’ve also parented and they had their own way of doing it. Some things you maybe don’t want to discuss with your parents, I can think of a couple of things. Sometimes you want to say things and just not have the advice, sometimes you just need someone to say “Yeah, I completely get it.”

I was lucky enough quite early in my pregnancy to find that group. They’re strong and amazing women, who so deeply support each other. How fiercely these women will support each other is quite amazing.

I hesitated then, because I wanted to say how fiercely they will protect their own, and they do. But “their own” is any woman who needs and asks for their support. They welcome with open arms.

I believe that having these women behind me is the reason I didn’t give up on breastfeeding, and they’ve helped my confidence soar since having Pippin.

Without support networks, without a mama family motherhood can be unspeakably lonely and it really shouldn’t have to be.

8 month update – late again!

I am seriously no good at getting these updates in on time, I missed seven entirely and Pippin has been eight months for three weeks now. It is because these months are going far too quickly, I can’t get my head around the fact that she’s fast approaching one whole year old. Pretty soon she will have been in the world longer than she was growing in my tummy (37+6 weeks!).

We’re very, very proud of her.

As we’re biased and her parents we’re pretty sure she’s talking already. She regularly says Da-Da, and she says “Ca” whenever she sees the cat. Clearly first words over here. And of course the moment she stole a piece of dairy free Easter egg was a proud one, she has inherited one thing from me at least.

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She can properly crawl, she surprised us with it 7 months and a week. Now its all about pulling herself up on furniture, and she is just starting to move along. This is more than a bit scary, I can hardly cope with the fact that she can get around on all fours, I don’t know what I will do when she’s walking.

Two teeth are through, and she manages a surprising amount of food considering she has basically nothing to chew with. Bagels are a particular favourite, especially spread with Vegan Cream ‘Cheese’, she also likes curry and stir fry. Her tastes seem to change from day to day: I can get her to eat a tangerine one day, the next she spits it out like poison. I’ve managed to re-introduce Soya to my diet without causing her problems, so the aim at some point between now and her first birthday will be for me to have some hard cheese.

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She saw the consultant and, because she was gaining weight, they were ok for us to continue managing her intolerances as we were doing. So that’s what we have done.

Just this last week she has started sitting still to be read to. Her favourite book is “Dinosaur Roar”, and it makes me all emotional when she laughs along.

She hates being dressed and tooth brushing and anything really that someone has to do for her. She is fiercely independent, and incredibly wilful.

Sleeping is gradually improving. She will go in her cot for a couple of hours, but I am still breastfeeding throughout the night. However she is starting to self-soothe more. I’m just following her lead really.

In other words we’re still just winging it. But she seems to be doing just fine, so it must be working.

Parenting with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

In the great scheme of things I’ve not really been a parent for very long – but in the eight months that Pippin has been in my life I’ve changed a lot I think. I’m a lot more tired for one thing, but I’ve made more changes in these last eight months, for her, than I have in the twenty five years previously.

That’s from little things; like making sure I eat lunch every day, so she can see me eating it and she gets something nutritious (even though most of it ends up on the floor!), and not having a lie in, ever. To bigger things like making big changes to our house to make it safe for a baby, getting a family-friendly car and even coming up with a ‘life plan’.

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One of the things that I knew would challenge me most as a parent was dealing with my mental health problems, and their effect on my parenting. If you know me in real life, I am pretty open about the fact that I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) about six years ago. If you looked hard enough you could find plenty of things I’ve written about it on the internet. Having OCD nearly destroyed me, and it took me a long time to get to the point where I can function on a day to day basis.

When I got pregnant I was terrified. I didn’t know how the pregnancy would affect my OCD, and I didn’t know how my OCD would affect my ability to parent. Which caused a lot of issues with the medical professionals who looked after me during pregnancy: which is another story entirely.

I have some things that I really struggle with. I wash my hands more than most people, I have to wash my hands after touching shoes, I can’t use public toilets, in fact, I have to wash my own toilet seat before using it. I don’t touch taps, or bathroom door handles, and I have real problems with towels too – I can’t dry my hands on them. It’s not all about germs, each of my compulsions has their own little story that I won’t bore you with, but these are behaviours that I really struggle with. As you can imagine these things do impact on my daily life.

When Pip was first born, I spent a lot of time in bed with her. I have breastfed her and I was recovering from a c-section, so in some respects hiding out in my room was convenient. What it also meant was I had more control over my environment. I was struggling with all the things that come with being a new mum, and I couldn’t cope with my OCD on top of that: so I minimised the amount of triggers within my environment.

As she got older it wasn’t feasible for me to hide out in my bedroom, so I ventured downstairs, but I was still struggling to do things that triggered my OCD. Gradually the house began to suffer for it, and I started having panic attacks again. I have started to get things under control again, but now Pippin is crawling it is hard for me.

I don’t believe the floor is clean, so every time she crawls off the rug in our living room (that I try and keep meticulously clean) I feel a little bit sick inside. If she is on the floor at someone else’s house it goes through me, but I am trying not to show it. I want her to not have to grow up with the same fears as me, I know in the upcoming years I am going to have to take her to public toilets, tie her shoes for her and do countless other things that scare the hell out of me. I don’t know where I am going to find the strength to do it, but I will have to.

I suffered massively at the hands of my OCD and I hope she never has to. I don’t even know if I can make a difference, whether it will happen anyway, whether she just has a higher chance of having OCD because she is my daughter. Nature vs nurture and all that. I guess we will just have to wait and see.