Sleep training – the follow up

Back in February I wrote a post about how we had begun to try and ‘sleep train’ Millie, a process where we aimed to be able to put her to bed and then walk out of her room at night and leave her to fall asleep by herself, and then stay in her room all night.

At the time of writing it we had gotten twelve nights in to a routine where we were having a cuddle, putting her down, saying goodnight and leaving the room, to cries that were lessening but still pretty strong, and we were making progress.

We carried on with this and the bedtime bit was going well – we never got to a stage where there was no crying at all but she would stop crying after around 10 seconds and lay down. During the night however, something shifted and Millie began waking more and more often, eventually to five or six times a night.

Initially we were determined to stick to our plan and we would stay in her room, give her a cuddle and then leave the room again, but we quickly became very exhausted doing this again and again, at different time through the night, and Millie would not settle back to sleep even after an hour or two being with her or going in and out.

We were becoming desperate again, and were at a bit of a loss. The sleep training/controlled crying method was a last resort and was supposed to work for everyone in a relatively short space of time with some commitment, which we had done, so why was Millie still waking so much after almost a month?

One night when my husband was working I took Millie to our bed with me after she had woken up again, and she slept soundly all night, so that became our new tactic. David took to sleeping on the sofa (which is very comfy and apparently better for his back anyway), and I swapped my sleeping partner for a small starfish shaped child.


Although this was working in terms of getting more sleep, and I adore sleeping next to her, it certainly wasn’t a long term option, but we weren’t sure where to go next. Then for my birthday David booked a night away for us all and the hotel had put a child’s camp bed directly alongside the double. Millie liked it, and slept really well, and I realised how much I missed sleeping next to my husband. So we tried it at home!

We had removed the side from the cot a few months earlier in one of our many efforts to solve the sleep conundrum, so we switched our room around a little and put Millie’s bed in our room, alongside our own bed.

Things are quite different, though it’s still been a bit of a journey. Initially we saw very quick improvements, with Millie sleeping through the night, and walking without crying because she could see us next to her. One night I saw her wake up and roll over in a panic, then see us and just lie back down again. After everything we’d been through, all she wanted was to be near us – so simple!

Now of course sleeping in a room with a giant comfy adult bed to climb onto is pretty tempting. Over a couple of weeks we started with Millie getting into our bed for her story, being all cute, snuggling in with her toys, and then she would join us in the middle of the night, and because we were lazy we ended up with her never in her own bed, just always in ours. Sometimes this worked and sometimes, on the sideways sleeping nights, it really didn’t, and that brings us up to this week when I became overtired and really fed up, and after I spent a night sleeping in Millie’s (very short) bed because I’d had enough of trying to fit around her, I knew I had to sort things out.


The last three nights, I’ve gone back to basics. I’ve read before that, although one of a toddler’s purposes is to test boundaries, explore, and push whatever they can, they also need to have the rules they are testing. Not only do they like to know where the lines lie, but they need to, because without this they don’t have any guide for behaviour. We were seeing this is action because Millie, although clearly tired, was pushing and pushing herself and not going to sleep until 9.30-10pm, which was only adding to my exhaustion, and I think it’s because she had no boundaries. She could go in the bedroom, lay where she wanted and we’d accommodate it, play until late and we’d try and curb it but weren’t strong enough about it in honesty. She had no lines to operate within, and just didn’t know what to do.

So – we’re now on night three of Operation Mummy’s Sorting Her Bedtime Shit Out, and so far so good! She sleeps in her own bed, and there’s been a bit of predictable protest, but it’s steadily reduced every night. And last night Millie spent the whole night in her own bed, whoop! There’s a clear lesson here – although I get worn down to the point of strength and commitment to sort things out, I’m not consistent, and take the easy option and give in after a while, which just doesn’t cut it, and confuses Millie. She needs me, and Dave, to be clear and strong in our boundary setting.

So tonight she was asleep by 8.30pm, which feels like a luxury right now, and I’m having a glass of bubbly to celebrate, and raise a glass to the future. She turns two in a fortnight so here’s a to a less lazy mother and finally cracking this sleep shiz!

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Celebrating my boobs

During my first midwife appointment, only a few months pregnant and not really even showing yet, was when I was first asked, ‘Will you breastfeed?’. A silly question to ask at that stage to be honest, because no one can know for sure, but I certainly wanted to try.

It seemed that my boobs wanted to try too, because at around six months pregnant I started waking up to small wet patches in the bed where I’d started leaking already. This was when I first started thinking that, really, the whole thing with boobs is weird.

We are subconsciously taught from a very early age that breasts are for admiration. They are a feature of attractiveness, a sexual tool. And yet here mine were leaking through my clothes and bedsheets at night – not at all sexy! Suddenly they were not mine anymore, they were preparing for someone else’s arrival instead.

Once Millie had been born we began to negotiate the breastfeeding minefield, which for us took a while. My nipples were dripping milk onto my swollen tummy in the shower, they were suckled for hours as Millie would fall asleep during feeds so I was expressing to make sure she was drinking properly, and as it turned out they weren’t quite large enough and needed little silicone shields to ensure a good latch. They were now a constant consideration, as they became full, hard and sore, then had to be switched regularly to ensure good flow for Millie, and were also pumped like udders with a loud electric device to allow my husband to get involved in feeding too.

This is all a bit overwhelming for anyone, and I feel lucky to have stayed in hospital for six days where I had access to clinical experts and a daily breastfeeding clinic where I could go and ask questions, and sometimes just sit and feed knowing I had people around to help if I needed it. The first time I literally asked the nurse to grab my breast and do it for me because I felt so lost, and she duely obliged – that level of support was invaluable to me.

Being able to ask my mum and friends openly about feeding was also vital, because it helped me feel more normal and less isolated – I’ve said it before and will always insist that a support network of any description is they key to how you manage with a child. No one can do it alone.

Initially I had been pleased at my extra cleavage but in fact it’s a huge amount of pressure. On top of trying to manage the varying size, leaking and feeding, there’s the constant talking about it all. Asking friends if the things I was feeling were normal, did their babies do this or that too, trying to fit my breasts into different bras, checking for their fullness. I lost count of how many times I was asked how I was feeding, and then when I started topping Millie up with formula at around six weeks because I couldn’t keep up with her appetite, waited for the judgement. I wasn’t often openly judged, in honesty, but there’s so much conversation about it that I felt ready to be, which is wrong in itself really.

The breast vs bottle thing is a crazy weight to land on a woman’s shoulders after squeezing a human out of her hoo-ha. Yes, breast milk has the longest list of utterly fantastic properties, but if we’re honest formula is great too these days, and the fact is that not every one can physically breastfeed, and even if they can they may not want to – and that’s THEIR decision.

Then came  feeding in public. Because of some of the hype around breastfeeding publicly I was ready to fight anyone who dared challenge me, despite never having actually been challenged! I believed vehemently in my right to feed my daughter wherever and whenever she needed it, and never shied away from that, because I was determined to normalise it and help change perceptions, but then I came back to the old societal rules. There are loads of places that openly support breastfeeeding in public, which is fantastic, but sometimes I didn’t want to just flip my boob out for all to see, despite the very necessary purpose. It feels beautiful, but also vulnerable, and very out of the ordinary for a woman, so I used to carry a big cloth for a bit of privacy now and again if I wanted it.

On the flip side of all that, breastfeeding Millie was one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve had with her. My favourite times (and my husband says the same, so it’s clearly more about bonding than just boobs) were the night feeds. In the early hours when it felt like we were the only two awake, quietly snuggled together as she filled her tiny tummy and blessed me with her new smiles. It was all about her, all about us, and those moments are so very precious.

Then at only five months it was all over, we’d worked so hard to create a routine and adapt together to her needs as she quickly grew, and then one day she decided she had finished and preferred full formula. I was bereft, and not ready, but the use of my body in this way was no longer my decision, and my baby was choosing to move on.

Now my lovely lumps, humps, breasts, boobs, tits, jugs, or whatever you call them (thanks again to society for steering us towards objectification) are mine again. They’re sexual again, meant for a very different purpose than for those few months of newborn sustenance. And I think I love them a little bit more now. They’re not quite the same as they started out but they’ve worked hard and deserve to stand a little less high, though no less proud.

Breastfeeding is beautiful, important, effective and bloody hard work at times, and I’m very glad I was able to feed Millie this way for a while. Everyone does this slightly differently, and ‘trial and error’ were never more important words for me than in raising a child. We made it work for us, which I think should be celebrated and cherished. I look forward to the day she might want to know her story, and perhaps if she chooses, to experience all this for herself.

Whether you breastfed or not, give yourself and your boobs a little hug, because whever you’ve been through, you deserve it!

Totton Family Fun Day

Today we thought we’d join the community and go along to Totton Family Fun Day, an annual event that grows on popularity each year, but a first time for us. It’s been scorchingly hot, so perfect for an outdoor get together.


The event is hosted by a group of local churches, and is completely free. The only thing we paid for was an ice cream from the van on the site, but there was a free BBQ, free hot and cold drinks, and a range of snacks. This is no mean feat when you’re catering for thousands of local people!

There was live music, lots of stands advertising their groups or businesses, and a puppet show, but importantly for Millie loads of activities for the kids – again all free! The older, more active ones could try basketball, throwing balls through giant inflatable doughnuts, play computer games,  try riding unusual bikes or decorate pebbles.


There were eight (I counted!) bouncy castles, really well organised with staff for each and separated for different age groups, as well as an inflatable slide and an inflatable wrestling platform. Millie was really interested in them but it was just so hot that as soon as she touched the material she said no!

There was also a great tent set up with activities for younger children; face painting, plasticine modelling, a table where they could make cards and frames with lots of stickers and glittery bits all provided, and a colouring table. That’s where we headed!


Millie’s really enjoying colouring and drawing (‘dawing Mummy!’) And spends ages doing it at the moment. As you can see in the photo circles and swirls are a big feature! We spent a full 30 minutes filling up endless sheets of paper, and to be honest I was just grateful to be sat in the shade 🤒
After a couple of hours mooching about we decided to head home because it was just too hot to be outside anymore, but it was a great way to spend the afternoon.

I can’t imagine how much time and effort goes into pulling off such an event, and there were endless volunteers around running all the activities – it’s fantastic that it’s all put on for free and we’ll definitely be coming back to enjoy it next year. Millie certainly approved!

Depression and anxiety: with a toddler 

So far in this mini-series of blog posts about my mental health I’ve talked about how my struggles first came about, how I dealt with it then and  how I feel I’ve begun to tackle it now. But I’ve mostly avoided discussion about one pretty major component in it all; my daughter Millie.

If I boil it down my main problem was being overwhelmed with too many things to worry about on a day to day basis, and of course Millie is a huge part of that. There were days when I really struggled to just get to the end of the day, and I was so frustrated, but I knew that her demands weren’t anything out of the ordinary and the problems were mine.

As time wore on and I felt lower and lower, and I began to feel disconnected from her. If I tried to say no to something and she protested, I gave in instantly. I normally feel guilty if she watches any TV or if she eats something I think is unhealthy, but I just went with the quickest and easiest option instead. I was lacking the mental energy to cope with most things day to day, and that included Millie.

That’s actually quite painful to admit to. Obviously she was never neglected or open to harm in any way, but if I’m honest our emotional relationship suffered for a time, because I had just begun to go through the motions. I had to remind myself to get more involved with her; smile when she did something funny and looked at me for a response, sit with her and cuddle while she watched Peppa Pig for the millionth time, and just not let it go when she refused to do more important things like clean her teeth.

I had been signed off work and had decided to keep Millie in her routine of spending two days a week at nursery. She also spent a day a week with my sister in law, and my Mum and Dad would help out and take her for odd days too. If anyone was able to give me a few hours to myself, I took it.

I was drowning and constantly dreamed of ways out. I often fantasised that I could book somewhere and go away to just be completely by myself, because all I wanted was for everything in my life to stop and leave me alone. I particularly remember a day when my sister was off work after an operation and couldn’t drive, and we were going to visit her. She lives about 20 minutes from me and I packed Millie and the dog into the car, and cried the whole way there. I genuinely considered what might happen if I asked my sister to take Millie for a few weeks and just drove away.

Afterwards I felt ridiculous and incredibly guilty. I felt guilty because I knew I was letting Millie (and everyone else) down and giving her far less than she deserved from her mother. I felt guilty because other people were coping with more children and more complicated lives than me, and yet I was crumbling. I felt guilty because there are people who would give everything to be parents, and I was wishing my daughter away. I felt like a failure.

One day my Mum popped in to see us and Millie saw her at the door and immediately went to get her bag and shoes as if she was going out, and then cried when she realised her Nanny was staying in the house with us. That was a bit of a slap to be honest, because I realised just how accustomed she’d gotten to being taken by other people, and how my company was wasn’t enjoyable for her.

I slowly started trying to spend time with Millie one on one. We often do things with others, and I thought it would be good to be together, away from home (because we both go a bit stir crazy when we’re in for too long), with no expectations.

We went to a local play café, we went to the farm, we went to the forest. I tried to let go of everything else in my head and just see her. I would sit with her and talk, play, or do nothing, just watch her. Forget my worries about what she was eating, what else was going on that day, everything.

You know what I realised? I need her. Dear God, do I need her. All the time I had been pulling away from her, and yet when I began to let her back in, she was the one healing me. When I focused on her I could smile because I was happy, and laugh because I wanted to, not because I thought I should. Children are such unaffected, joyous little souls, and I was getting to share that, and see things the way she did.

She doesn’t give a shit if I didn’t shower today, or if she had spaghetti hoops for tea three times this week. Everything she does is interesting to her, or fun, and when I began to just follow her lead, I saw it that way too. I would come home from our times out feeling lighter, and a little at a time I was genuinely enjoying life more, in all aspects.

Millie and sleep have never been great pals and in the last few months she’s spent a lot of nights in bed with me, then more recently we’ve moved her bed into our room, and this has also been really wonderful. It’s meant her sleep has settled and she no longer wakes nearly as much at night, which helps with my sleep deprivation, and I love being so close to her. Laying in the dark and listening to her breathing is very relaxing, and always makes me feel comforted and warm. Then in the mornings she doesn’t wake crying, I roll over and she’s right there, all bed head and chatter.

Now I continue to make time from myself away from everything else, including Millie, because I know I need it, and I know it’s ok to have that. I also continue to make time for just the two of us, because it seems to centre me a bit, we always have a great time, and I know one day she’ll be grown and gone, and I will be fantasising about our lives now instead.

I’ve read a number of times that having time away from your kids makes you a better parent, and it’s so true. If I have time to refuel myself I can give her everything when we are together, and I’ve accepted that now. I’ve realised that I can’t learn to manage my mental health issues without her, so from here on in, it’s a team effort.

A letter to myself

I found out recently that maternal mental health awareness week was happening this week (1-7 May), and it got me thinking. Having a child – whether you’re pushing it out, having it surgically removed, adopting or whatever else – is the most incredible life change. There is no amount of reading or research that can prepare you for the sudden weight of responsibility in keeping such a small person alive. It’s a 24 hour operation, and if ever there’s a time in your life when your normal defences are down, and you are vulnerable to a bit of mental pressure, this is definitely it.

Some people take to it like they were born to (the buggers), but others, like me, don’t. I suffered with post-natal depression in the months after Millie was born, and at the time I thought there was something wrong with me. I refused medication, I didn’t talk about it, and I pushed on through. My life and experiences may have evolved and moved on, but there are many, many more people out there feeling like I did then. Eighteen months on, I’ve written my new mum self a letter with some advice I wish I’d had the courage to ask for then.

Dearest Liz,

Hits you like a brick wall, doesn’t it? I mean, you expected it, but you also really didn’t, and it’s hard. It’s so very hard sometimes, and you need to acknowledge that; you don’t have to brave face it all the time.

We need to just set a baseline here – you’re doing a good job. You know why? Because you give a shit. I read this recently and it makes total sense. The very fact that you worry about Millie getting the best, and feel guilty about what you think she might be missing out on, makes you a good mum. If you weren’t you wouldn’t care. Take heart in that.

I know it’s a rollercoaster. I know that you can’t leave her sight for a second, and that sometimes when you do the cry you hear makes every nerve in your body jangle, and you need to take a breath before you can walk back in and paint on a smile for her. I also know that when she smiles back and kicks those little legs because she’s happy just to see you, your heart melts. I can see it in your face. She’s a powerful being, and personally I think mother nature makes babies that way on purpose. They have to be so delicious in order for you to take the hardship – they give you strength.

You need to draw on this strength when you are at your lowest. Those times when you think she’d be better off without you, and you want to disappear? That it would be easier if you just kept driving and never stopped? You’re wrong. You need each other, right now more than ever.

You are strong, you are doing a brilliant job, you are not failing her, she does not deserve a better mum. There is no one better than you to look after your daughter.

I know you can hear all this, but you don’t believe a word of it. You feel battered, exhausted beyond the realms of possibility, and like you’re falling at every hurdle. There are days when you feel disconnected, and have nothing left, and can’t summon the energy to look after yourself, let alone a baby. And that’s ok. There is no overnight fix, and for now just that you’re hearing the words is enough, but you must never, ever forget them. When you lay down on the floor on her mat just to get a better look at her and drink her in, or during the many hours you sit staring at her sleeping on your chest, tell yourself how great you are. When you look in the mirror and cringe at your reflection, or hold back tears because she’s been crying for hours, tell yourself again. The smiles, the contented naps, the giggles, are all because of you. She’s figuring out a lot right now and growing fast, so she’s got a tough job to do too. You are all she wants in the middle of all that; you’re her whole entire world. You must be pretty bloody special to hold that spot.

Now I’m nearly done. See that bloke on the other end of the sofa? The one holding his iPhone? Tell him. Tell him everything you’re feeling, and ask him to help. He won’t be sure how, because he can’t be when you don’t even know yourself, but you can’t do this alone. Plus he’s not a mind reader! Then tomorrow text one of your friends and do the same. It’s scary to be so honest when you’re breaking inside, but it’ll be worth it. BT once said it’s good to talk, and they weren’t wrong. It takes a village to raise a child, so start getting your village on board!

Finally, step back and look after yourself now and again, don’t try and do it all. Walking the dog is driving you insane so get someone else to do it, and stop thinking about the hoovering, and making people cups of tea when they pop in. In fact some days you don’t have to say yes to them popping in at all if that’s what you want! Let people do more for you, it’s not for you to look after everyone all the time. Focus on you and Millie, get fresh air, take more baths, eat all the chocolate.

Oh darling, when I think of you now it makes me quite emotional, and I just want to scoop you up and hold you. It will get better, and as that little girl grows you will too. I promise.

Don’t be afraid to put yourself first sometimes. Millie needs you to.

Me xx

New baby love

One of my closest friends had a baby a couple of days ago, and another is ready to drop any day now, and I’m feeling pretty emotional about it. For both of them it’s their first child and it’s bringing back all the memories of the heady, exciting (scary, despairing) first days I had with Millie.

In fact when I was putting Millie to bed last night she drifted off as we had a little cuddle and I got a bit weepy thinking about her as a newborn, and the many hours I spent with her on my chest, just feeling the warmth of her and watching her sleep.

It’s unbelievable to think that was 15 months ago already, and how our daily routines have changed so much – what I need to prepare for each day now is very different!

I’ve been trying to decide what I might want to get as a little ‘welcome to the world’ gift for my friend, and I’d like it to be something useful. In trying to remember what we found vital with a tiny baby to care for, I’ve made a list of my newborn essentials:

  • All-in-one baby grows – Millie lived in these for months. We had bought or were given some other clothes but I found it so much more practical to have her in a baby grow, especially when you have to undress them so often. They’re warm, comfy and somehow babies just look extra cute in a onesie.
  • Bottle warmer – it was a couple of months before we got one of these. I breastfed initially but used to express too, and quite soon had to move to combination feeding because I couldn’t produce enough, so warming a bottle while out was a daily requirement. In M&S cafe one day they provided a Tommy Tippee one for us and it was brilliant so we bought one right away and used it constantly, it was so easy!
  • Dummy – this is a contentious one and I know not every one supports use of a dummy, but for us it was a game changer. When Millie wouldn’t sleep for longer than an hour at a time we began to go mad, and a midwife suggested using a dummy. I was always against them (I don’t know why!) but advice from a healthcare professional was like a green light, and Millie loved it. It’s helped with sleeping, teething, and is her all round comforter really. She still has it now and removing it is something we need to think about, but maybe not today…
  • Jelly babies – or any sugary sweets really. Millie spent her first 17 hours (or so) of life in the neonatal unit, and though I was hand expressing colostrum for her it wasn’t much, so she was fed with formula. She then struggled with a nipple and used to fall asleep immediately on the breast. I ended up using nipple shields to get her to latch on, but the process of figuring it out was over a good week or so and in hospital we developed a routine where I would try and feed, then get her down, express, clean everything and sleep myself, and it was about 30 minutes before it all started again. I’d bought jelly babies for the labour but used them for the night of breastfeeding to keep myself awake, and I recommend them to everyone now, fab for while you’re trying to adjust to waking up so often!
  • Electric breast pump – I expressed from fairly early on to allow my husband to get in on the feeding action (and give me some extra sleep!), and we bought a hand pump that proved itself redundant almost immediately – I needed hand muscles of steel and a good hour or so to get any decent amount out, and we needed an alternative. During my stay in hospital we’d been lucky to have use of an electric pump that sounded awful but expressed a full bottle in minutes, so we invested in one at home and never regretted it!
  • Friends! – I know some people spend days on end at home with their babies, but I am not one of them. I needed to get out and do something pretty much every day because a) having a goal of getting out of the house gave me something to work towards and b) it kept me sane! I had six weeks without driving after my c-section and the restriction I felt was enormous.What’s app chats, Facebook  groups and seeing friends or going to baby groups made such a difference for me. I needed the interaction, reassurance and change of scenery, and can’t stress the importance of getting out and about enough to new parents.

And here’s the most useful bit of advice that you eventually learn, but no one tells you: sometimes babies just want to cry. We seem to be programmed to want to stop the crying and take away whatever’s bothering them, but sometimes they just need to get it all out, and that’s ok. If they’re fed, watered, burped, clean and warm then there’s little else you can practically do but be there. Hold them, talk to them, and be there. If you’re knackered and it’s a long crying session it can be so wearing, but the world is so overwhelming for babies, and crying is the only outlet they have! We all have shit days, and babies are no exception. Sounds pretty obvious reading it back now but it wasn’t at the time!

All this thinking of what we did or used in the early days has led me on to a list of what wasn’t essential at all, but that’s for another day!

 

Ready made meals

I’m making a confession (and a recommendation) – I’ve started using ready meals for Millie. Occasionally. And not the nice Ella’s or Cow and Gate kind, but the Morrison’s own kind.

They are healthy ones and there’s nothing weird in the ingredients, but still they’re supermarket ready meals, which makes me have an extra helping of mum guilt.

When Millie first started weaning I was all about the DIY. I spent hours making all the different purees myself, dedicating a whole freezer drawer of well labelled bags to her nutritional needs. And I was smug about it.

I also made different meals as she got older and began expanding her tastes…and then I went back to work.

Now I find that I have either no time or energy to keep up the variety of home made meals for Millie, and particularly not since a lot of it goes on the floor! If Dave and I eat something she can have I’ll put a bowl by for the next day, but my planning for what we eat is pretty rubbish anyway so that doesn’t always work.

So a few weeks ago I was trying to get some different meals for Millie so she wasn’t always eating the same stuff (like we so often do) and there was a nice paella in the fresh section. I checked what was in it and just tried it, and the little peanut loves it! Not only is it tasty, a good mix of meat, rice and vegetables, but easy to practice spoon feeding herself or eating with her fingers. Winner!

So tonight I bought another one, and a carbonara too. Six meals in the freezer, meals I don’t normally make at home, saving me time and effort and keeping Millie happy. She still gets a few Ella’s pouches, and some fresh or frozen things I’ve made, so at least we have a mix. I do feel bad about not doing it all myself, but I think that’s an expectation I’ve created in my own head, and it’s not realistic for me. Though social media might make you think all the other mums are doing it themselves, they really aren’t.

If you’re popping into Morrisons soon take a look at the fresh ready meals. You’ve got to try these things and find out what works!

By the way – I know these are low fat versions and Millie’s definitely getting a balance in her diet, just so you know!

A letter to my daughter 

Dearest Millie,

Well we made it, today is your first birthday, and it feels a bit surreal to be honest. This past year has been the fastest of my life, and yet there have been many times when I thought the end of the day would never come.

Having a baby was not a decision I took lightly. I waited and agonised for years, and though I was in a place in my life where I was ready, as soon as you arrived I questioned what I had been waiting for. Until it happens, you just can’t grasp what a change it is, and I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but I quickly realised we are a little team, taking on the world, and we can work it out together.

There is not a single part of my life that has not had to change or flex to adapt to your arrival. I have become adept at showering in mere seconds, living without ever getting enough sleep, and missing meals. I’ve also been completely and utterly overwhelmed every day by your mere existence.

I have never known emotions like I do with you. It’s a life full of extremes; of happiness so great my heart wants to burst, of giddy excitement at seemingly tiny milestones (like today when I saw you sign ‘listen’ for the first time), of crying in the shower out of utter despair. It’s been such a roller coaster and it’s taught me so much about myself; I have a strength, a purpose and an identity I never knew before, because of you. I’m a mum ❤️.

I’ve been so very proud of how you’ve developed, because being a baby is tough and you take it in your stride. The first night you spent in your own room at 12 weeks old, when you’re poked and prodded by doctors and nurses and you watch with quiet curiosity, and when you flatly refuse to do anything you don’t want to do. My heart swells and I love it, I feel so privileged to watch this tiny personality taking shape in front of me.

I wonder and worry about your future sometimes. You have so much ahead of you, a lifetime of possibility, and having seen the scale of change in the world since I was a child, I can only imagine what your adulthood will look like and the opportunities you’ll have. As a woman your choices, aspirations and ideals will be so different to mine, my mum’s or grandmother’s, and it’s very exciting. On the flip side I don’t know what threats you’ll face, and the knowledge that I can’t protect you is frightening. Parenting gives you such a lot to think about!

I can’t pretend to you that it’s all been wonderful. I don’t think I’ve ever faced challenges like those I have this past year, especially in the early months. The physical, mental and psychological strain is immense, doubting every decision and feeling completely inadequate. I went through a period where I was convinced I simply wasn’t good enough for you, and thankfully you won’t remember but I apologised endlessly. Throughout it all you’ve provided so many highs that I’ve learnt I can overcome the lows, and you’ve given me the perspective to see that it’s all part of the experience, we’re incredibly lucky to have our time together, and tomorrow is another day.

I know the first year is only the beginning, but it’s a big achievement for us both and I feel like we’ve come such a long way. You’re no longer so dependent and tiny, but growing into a proper little person at an alarming rate. I promise to try and make good decisions, but I’m going to have bad days too. Sometimes you’ll get a lazy dinner, or I’ll snap in frustration, but please know I’m always doing my best. I want to model patience, kindness, honesty and strength, I want to show you how to have fun, enjoy a meaningful career, see the value in the little moments and always believe in yourself. Having said this, I can be moody, argumentative and lazy (to mention just three of my less desirable traits!) so I’m never going to be this image of parental perfection all the time, but I’m trying darling, and you make me want to be better at it every day.

I love you so fiercely it overwhelms me, and whatever our future might hold, you are all I really need.

Happy birthday, little Millie xxxx

#wingingit

I’ve been reading a lot of chat online recently about a movement against parenting perfection. The many pictures of happy, smiling kids, mums who are well organised with nice make up and hair and carefree journeys through parenthood. It’s a lot like social media in general – people only really post the good bits, which we all know aren’t always real life.

I think we’re all guilty of it, I mean who wants to post updates and photos under a status or headline that says ‘my life felt pretty shit today’ (insert appropriate emoticon)?

The fact is that there are the picture perfect days, and there also are the unbelievably hard days, when actually it can feel pretty shitty, and that’s ok. It’s been so important for me to see other mums out and about who look knackered, bond over not having the time to brush your hair, or read from those who are struggling and share the tough times as well as the ‘aren’t they amazing?’ moments.

Whatever your experience or preparation, there is nothing that can really ready you for having a baby, and it’s a total shell shock. Add this to the smack-in-the-face realisation that you are fully responsible for a tiny human and the fact that they’re all slightly different and it’s a flipping minefield. For every expert, blog and friend you can find who give you one piece of advice for your current baby worry, and I’ll give you another five whose experiences or opinions say the opposite.

So the bottom line of today’s ramblings is to say that it’s easier once you acknowledge that; we are all just muddling through, taking each day as it comes and figuring out what works for us, it isn’t always going to be what works for others, and it also might not always look shiny and perfect. Keep up the smiley, happy images, because it really is bloody lovely having a wee one, but keep your perspective too and know we’re all winging it. We’ve all had a little cry sometimes, but we’re still doing an awesome job xxx

Oh yeah, I’m a mum now

This evening was an interesting new experience for me. As if I needed a reminder, it was a moment that made me smile to myself and think, ‘this is what parenting is!’

I put Millie into the bath and laughed as her tummy gave a quick squeeze and she popped out a little fart. Farts are hilarious at the best of times but hers are always extra cute and worth a giggle. She then began squeezing some more, and harder, and I realised what we had; a bath poo.

I readied a nappy and lifted her out but it was just too late. Without thinking I then sat and scooped out all the poo with my bare hands. My bare hands. This is a scenario I never imagined for myself, and it reminded me of all the things you just do when you have a baby, or child (I’m sure this doesn’t change as they grow!).

It’s like when they’re sick all down your arm or back and you take a quick look and think ‘at least it went on me and not them’, or when you take being bitten or scratched on your face with good humour and simply say ‘nicely, pumpkin’ because you know she’s too tiny to understand yet. Or when your household cleaning products have expanded to include baby wipes (because let’s be honest, they’re brilliant). All of these have been me. Going for a chat at work and having dribble and sweet potato on your top. That’s also been me. Eventually I’m sure I’ll reach into my handbag for a notebook at work and get a half eaten banana or the tv remote too.

It’s all good fun, right?! x