Lessons in patience 

Lately the husband and I have been commenting on how much we’ve been enjoying our little family. We were living in a bubble where our teamwork seemed to be in sync, Millie was a dream every day and loving every moment of her little life, and I dared to think we might have cracked it.

I had forgotten/ignored the fact that with every peak comes a trough. Two weeks ago was Millie’s birthday, and the following day we allowed the NHS to attack her tiny limbs (and deliver life saving drugs) for her 12 month jabs. Ever since that day we’ve been in a definite trough.

She had the predictable lethargy, fever and irritability that comes after jabs, and seemingly the irritability just never left. We get pockets of smiles, giggles and playfulness, but we’re also getting loads more crying, whinging and unhappiness, and it’s hard for all of us. We’ve gone backwards with weaning off the dummy, which is almost permanently in at the minute, and our improving sleep situation has gone way off kilter.

She’s also getting teeth through so that’s likely to be to blame, I’ve been ill which she may have had a bit of, and we’ve been away for a few days with disrupted routines, new people and places so she’s no doubt overwhelmed, but realistically I’m guessing. I’d love to say that a year in it’s educated guessing but I’m not so sure! I find this gets really tiring, because you never know if you’re doing the right thing, and even if you are for that moment it could all change again tomorrow.

I hate that my contented little girl is so troubled and I’m struggling to help ease her discomfort, and I hate questioning myself so much. I know this is normal but that’s not the answer either. I cherish so many moments with Millie but right now they’re few and far between!

So essentially I’m having my turn for a whinge. Sometimes you do everything you can think of and its not enough. Here’s hoping the next peak isn’t too far off!

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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

Post party reflections

This afternoon (note how timely this post is? Go me!) we held a little first birthday party for Millie. A few weeks ago I was still planning to do nothing so it was quite last minute but I’m very pleased we managed it.

I absolutely love cooking or baking for people, and I’m always quite determined to have everything homemade, which is wonderful in theory, but never fails to cause me stress. I spent all of yesterday and this morning frantically baking, icing, making sarnies, checking lists, getting mad at how little time I had, and being generally very late. But I made it.

I should also point out that I only made it, and only ever make it, thanks to having lots of help. Some people made delicious goodies to bring along, looked after Millie or walked the dog, helped set up the community hall we’d booked because they arrived before me to an empty room (oops) and then tidied up afterwards too. They are all very lovely, and understand my poor time perception and how disorganised I can be despite my best efforts.

So we all had cake and sandwiches and a bit of chopped fruit and veg (eases the conscience when you’re feeding children) and generally just had a wonderful time. Millie woke up with a gunky, puffy eye that might be a bit of conjunctivitis so she looked a bit like she’d had a row at nursery or something but she perked up considerably seeing all the people and toys and food. Easily swayed with food, just like her mother!

Now in the quiet when I’ve tidied up, Millie’s recovering with a nap and I’ve stopped for five minutes, I feel a little bit overwhelmed. My little tiny baby is about to turn one, and she’s definitely not a little tiny baby anymore, but she certainly is a very lucky girl. She had family and friends all turn up on their days off just to see her today, some travelling considerable distance. It’s just so heartwarming, I feel very thankful.

So I’ve shed a few tears today and will most certainly not have finished before the end of her birthday later this week. This year has gone so fast, and I need to hang on to every second I can and keep building our memories. She’ll definitely be getting a party every year.

The sleep issue

Millie loves sleeping in our bed. What baby doesn’t like the big, warm, smells-like-my-parent bed?! Except I think I’ve allowed her in so much it’s now expected, and it may* be an issue.

* I’ll come back to that later

So how did I get here? There’s a list:

  • Millie’s room is tiny and there’s no room for a chair, so on the nights when she needs long cuddles or doesn’t want to go back to sleep, my back will only hold out so long without support so I’ve ended up nipping next door to sit on my bed, then it would be easy just to lay her down 
  • I quickly realised that when I was struggling to stay awake for night feeds/cries/whatever and just needed to get some sleep, she would settle very quickly laid next to me (she’s even mastered a cheeky grin that definitely says ‘I won!’ When I lay her in my bed). Sleep always wins so this has become my answer to getting a little more shut eye
  • For daytime sleep particularly, I absolutely love laying next to her and playing or cuddling a bit until she drifts off, and you can’t really do that in her cot

So now, she goes down at night in her room, and if she wakes for a feed it’s very hard getting her back into her cot so she often ends up in with us til morning. Also, literally all her naps at home are on our bed. 

So is this actually an issue? On one hand I think no, it’s not what most other parents I know do but if we’re happy isn’t that enough? She’s sleeping well so that’s fine really. But she’s getting bigger and I would like my bed back during the night sometimes, and it would be good if she were more comfortable staying in her own room after a night feed. 

The naps could pose more of a problem, because she never naps at home without one of us there laid next to her. This feels like an issue because it’s drilled into us that they should be able to self settle but I don’t know if I agree. It’s more inconvenient sometimes, and there’s a pretty serious risk I will end up asleep too, but for the most part it’s just how we do it. What is definitely an issue is that she doesn’t crawl yet but she’s trying, and when she does there’s no protection around our bed. Though it’s going to be hard moving her to sleeping alone during the day it’s a necessity for her safety (plus she does it at nursery without a problem, which means it’s not impossible and I guess also means it’s me being too indulgent 😁).

Part of me thinks I should fall in line, do what my friends do and get her in her cot all the time. It would definitely be easier. But there’s also a foot stamping part of me that thinks ‘no!’. Co-sleeping is wonderful, good for bonding, means we’re both getting better quality sleep (OK, she is at least), and really I’m just enjoying it. She’s so beautiful when she sleeps, and she’s growing too fast already, I should enjoy this shouldn’t I?! 

So there you go, I don’t have an answer but at least I’ve been honest as a lazy parent who defaults to the easy option. She’s napping on my bed right now actually, with pillow bumpers just in case. I might stop typing and sneak a cuddle, while I can. Here’s a bed selfie as a sign off 😍

#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

 

All the things I never knew

Photo of my daughter Millie

A post where I reflect a little on parenthood so far…you might have also seen this on the Selfish Mother blog!

I thought I knew what it would be like to have children. I’ve grown up around babies, I’ve got lots of friends and family with little ones, and once I was even a birthing partner for a friend, so I was ‘prepared’. I always knew I wanted children one day, millions of people reproduce and that’s what we’re here for after all, right? It was all good, until I actually tried it.

So here are the things I never knew.

I never knew…just how hard this really is. Everyone has something to tell you, advice to impart, and though I listened well and read around, I honestly never knew until Millie arrived. Those first few weeks just took my breath away; the lack of sleep, the continuous trial and error, the emotional rollercoaster – and though it does get easier in many ways, the obstacles just shape shift as you go along. It’s the steepest learning curve I’ll ever experience.

I never knew…my husband could look like that. We’ve been together for 15 years and ben through a lot, but the look he has when he’s with Millie is one I’ve never seen before and it melts me every time. I was so focused on my career I made him wait for years before trying for children, and I don’t think I truly appreciated just how patient he was. She means the absolute world to him and is such a lucky little girl to have him. It makes me so happy to watch them together, and I’m very grateful to have such a wonderful husband/team mate/buddy to share this with.

I never knew…how much my daughter would mean to everyone else, which might sound naïve, but it’s true. Once I announced I was pregnant, my grandmother was so excited she stopped talking to me as a person and interacted only with my bump for six whole months, and the support and good wishes we’ve had from friends and family far and wide has been overwhelming. Babies bring joy to so many people, but to see the love I feel for Millie mirrored on the faces of my parents, my sister, and so many of our loved ones just delights me every time.

I never knew…that I could actually do this. When I take a rare moment and actually think about it; I carried and grew a human inside my own body, I went through labour (which NOTHING can prepare you for), and then when that didn’t work I had major abdominal surgery, and finally I was given this tiny little person and had to just figure it out. It’s such a huge undertaking. That little person is now nearly six months old and she’s so awesome, every day. I did that, so high five to me.

There’s such a lot I never knew, and I’ve had to learn fast. There are the most wonderful giggles, heart melting milestones and the best cuddles you’ll ever get, as well as utter desperation, floods of tears, and some pretty serious physical and mental challenges, but it’s been so amazing starting out this little journey of ours together. I honestly never knew quite how much I’d cherish all these things, and how much I’d look forward to getting it wrong, getting it right, and just enjoying (almost) every minute.