Oh How You Forget

this too shall pass

You know those lovely little Facebook memories that crop up on your feed, the ones where it says ‘on this day 4 years ago’ and some photo or status of how you felt/looked/did gives you a pang of nostalgic realisation that life is going really fast? I saw one the other day as I trawled through Facebook during the 3am feed that made me feel a bit sad. It said ‘shitty nights, shitty teething, shitty half term weather, shitty nappies, shitty bank balance, shitty 3 year old tantrums’. I felt sad because I thought how lonely I must have felt to voice all of that so publicly on my wall for all to see but more significantly, that I had no recollection of even doing it. And why is that? Why do we forget the dark times as a mother? Is there some kindness Mother Nature installed in us like forgetting the pain of labour so we reproduce again? There are a millions things I’ve forgotten when it comes to having a newborn baby, despite feeling like I should be an old hat at this mothering role by now, here a some of them;

  • that babies don’t eat, sleep, poo, repeat on a 3 hourly Gina Ford esque schedule
  • that babies cry for absolutely no reason even when you’ve fed them, winded them and changed them
  • that for those first few weeks of life they don’t give you anything back in the form of love or recognition for all your god dam hard work of nourishing them with your breast milk, a simple smile would be hugely appreciated during those darks hours at night
  • and that you will without a doubt question your ability to breastfeed them and always ask yourself ‘how do I know they’re getting enough?’
  • that waking up freezing cold in a pool of your own sweat is possibly the most unpleasant side to breastfeeding
  • and breast pads will always end up rolled up in a sticky ball at the bottom of your bra
  • that tea is only ever drunk tepid
  • that breakfast is eaten at noon and lunch at 4pm
  • that the washing machine is on constantly
  • and the dishwasher for that matter
  • that you never finish a conversation, emails are sat in your draft folder and attempting to make that new recipe you’ve been lusting over in the Hemsley and Hemsley cook book will never happen
  • that mum guilt no matter in what from, raises it’s ugly head when you’re at your most tired and makes you question EVERYTHING
  • that Googling ‘when do babies sleep through the night’ is not going to give you the answer you were hoping for
  • that you’ll find yourself reading every parenting forum (usually during the 3am feed) on the topic but end up getting distracted by a thread on the breast vs bottle feeding debate and wished you hadn’t
  • that it’s incredible how a cup of tea and a chocolate brownie can make everything seem ok again
  • that everything is a phase (dispite HATING this term) and things will get better

Don’t Buy Her Flowers!

When my second baby was 2 weeks old and my husband had gone back to work, a very lovely friend left me a huge lasagne, a big loaf of sour dough bread, and some home made brownies on my door step with a note. It read ‘Dear Clemmie you’re probably feeling exhausted and the thought of cooking dinner tonight fills you with dread. Here’s some yummy grub to keep you going, no need to call and thank speak soon xx.’

It was such a kind and thoughtful present I burst into tears. This friend understood exactly what a new mum really needs, not another teddy for the baby, a hand wash only cashmere baby cardigan or even another bunch of flowers. New mums need things for them, survival packs, something that says well done for pushing a human out of your vagina now here are some treats for you!

Steph recently started Don’t Buy Her Flowers, selling thoughtful gift packages for new mums with the awesome addition of COOK food vouchers so new parents can stock up their freezer with proper meals they don’t have to prepare.

Me in first week

She says ‘I started it mostly because I think receiving an additional thing to care for when you’ve had a baby is, frankly, a bit bonkers and yet 96% of new mums receive flowers. I think women deserve to feel a bit cared for after having a baby because those first months are tough. New mothers, whether they realise it or not (and unfortunately I think we’re too busy punishing ourselves or feeling guilty about something to realise it) give a lot. We give over our bodies, our minds, our relationships and for a while for most of us, we lose a bit of ourselves. I don’t want to whinge about it – it’s not to say my children aren’t worth it, or I would do it differently if I had my time again and all those things women jump to say if they feel they’re caught having a moan about having babies. But I think it’s tough. Maybe because we don’t all have families around us, maybe because there is so much information available we can read something that tells us we are making a complete shitting mess of it. Maybe because unlike generations before us, we have expectations of ourselves to be out there and earning and creating and doing something brilliant. All while looking hot and in control and with a baby attached to us in some sort of sling.

I certainly didn’t feel hot or in control in the first months after having a baby. Actually that’s not entirely true – I constantly had a sweat on when breastfeeding, but you know what I mean. In those early stages, it’s all about someone else and I often got to 5pm before realising I hadn’t yet cleaned my teeth. For most of us, for the first time in our lives we’re completely at the beck and call of another person, doing something we’ve never done before, while handling the crackers hormones and for many the physical repercussions of birth.

When I had my first baby, I received eight bunches of flowers. I worked in advertising and the agencies sent these lovely bouquets that at any other time I would have felt hugely grateful for, but I didn’t have the energy to do anything with them and only had two small vases, so they left me feeling a bit weepy. Which in turn made me feel more weepy – what kind of woman was I if the kind act of sending me flowers left me feeling distressed?

After that, when a friend had a baby I sent them a little package of nice things for them and if they lived near, I cooked them something and left it on their doorstep. These friends sent the loveliest messages about how wonderful it was that someone had thought of them. I realised that it wasn’t only me that a) got a lot of flowers and b) found the new mum bit hard. At this point, I returned to work part-time after both babies and found the juggle tough. The commute felt like wasted time, the job felt ‘different’ (or I did) and then there’s the guilt when I got the inevitable calls that one of the kids was poorly. My career to this point had been managing multiple agency and internal teams to deliver national campaigns, and I’d loved it. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s multi-tasking. And, if I’m honest, being a bit bossy. Once the seed had been planted that maybe this new mum gift thing could be a business, I couldn’t get it out of my head and everything I’d learnt before now felt like it was going to help me actually do this.

My love of all things ‘Sisterhood’ started because one of the things that helped me when I had my babies was support from other women. The ones that reassured me it was ok to feel a bit bonkers, and that breastfeeding can be a bit hard, and that it was all going to get easier.  My mum – a midwife and having had four babies herself – helped me when Buster was a few weeks old when I rang her crying, overcome with tiredness and feeling unsure I was getting anything right. She told me to just STOP. I didn’t have to do something every day in those first months. I didn’t have to meet up with people and trek around worrying that I was going to be late for a feed but not wanting to cut everyone else’s walk short. The baby didn’t need ‘stimulating’ at a few weeks old when he had my face to look at. Heck, some days I didn’t have to get dressed. It is such a short period of time in the grand scheme of things. On the days when everything is going to plan, get out there just try not to overdo it. When it’s not, pull the drawbridge up and do whatever you can to rest because the world will feel like a brighter place when you do. When you have a baby you have the best excuse in the world not to turn up to everything, it’s just unfortunate that most of us don’t realise that until later. None of it matters. Very little is more important than you being as rested as is possible for someone getting by on probably not a lot of sleep.

care-package-removed esentials-package-open-1 the-date-night-in-2

The packages I’ve put together are essentially to try and encourage that idea – for a mum to stop and take a few minutes to herself or with her partner. We launched with three packages; The Care Package, The Essentials and The Date Night In. COOK food vouchers can be added to any package, which also make it a great gift if you want to spend a bit more or buy a group present. I don’t know any new parents that wouldn’t appreciate food they don’t have to prepare. Whether it’s for someone having their first baby or their sixth, life is different to before and everyone will need a bit of time to adjust.

I can’t tell you how this will work out as it’s only been a couple of weeks. It’s started brilliantly and the feedback, from the quality of the products and the packaging to recipients weeping when they open their gift (in a good way!) has been so lovely to receive. There are partners, friends and grandparents that feel a bit useless at times and our website enables them to buy a gift that offers mums some TLC. Flowers say ‘I’m thinking of you’. A gift package from Don’t Buy Her Flowers says ‘I’m thinking of you, if you’re finding it hard it’s OK and I hope this makes you feel a bit better’.

Check out Don’t Buy Her Flowers website, where you’ll also find the Sisterhood (and all that) blog. You can follow Steph on Twitter @StephieDoug and on Facebook.

If that hasn’t got you nodding along and remembering how you really felt after having a baby I don’t know what planet you’re on. We have one lucky reader the chance to win a Date Night In with Champagne for someone that needs it, which could be a friend or yourself if you’re in need! All you have to do is tell me what was the most ridiculous present you got after having your baby. It can be something totally impractical, totally hideous or just totally bizarre. Leave your answer in the comments box. The winner will be revealed next Friday. Good luck!

Food Glorious Food – Book Give Away!

 

crumbs

As any new Mum out there knows, those first few weeks with a new born is emotional, exhausting, mind blowing and all consuming. You can’t believe when the midwife comes over at mid day you’re still not dressed let alone brushed your teeth. This little 50 inch long human really does take all your time and energy, how on earth will you ever leave the house again?!

When people often ask me what are the real survival tips for those first weeks I always talk about food. Food provides a new mother with all her energy she needs for her recovery after having a baby, especially if breastfeeding. Iron rich foods for boosting those energy levels (green leafy vegetables, liver, red meat, apricots, chickpeas and lentils) are vital not to mention the importance of fibre for helping that first poo to pass! Protein rich foods too are really important for tissue healing. So if you’ve has a vaginal tear or even a c-section make sure your eating food such as eggs, milk, yoghurt, pork, chicken and turkey. Your appetite often increases in those first few days, I recall eating an entire lasagne my Mother-in-law made much to my husband’s horror.

But the one thing about trying to eat all this food is there is literally no time to cook it, you will barely manage to put some toast in the toaster. In fact we reheated so many cups of teas in those first few weeks it was a jolly good thing we owned a microwave. Those few weeks you have once you’ve finished work and before your baby arrives is a great time to start cooking and freezing lots of delicious meals. And what better way to get some fab recipes from two Mums who know what to cook

Claire and Lucy from Crumbs Food have a great new cookbook out and we have a copy of it for one lucky reader to win! In this cookbook you’ll find delicious, nutritious meals for you and the whole family, some recipes take just 5 minutes to make!  From lentil soup, home made beans to tzatziki salmon pasta there is a meal idea for every hungry tired new parent.

All you have to do to enter is to tell me; what was the first thing you ate after giving birth. Whether it was a piece of white cardboard NHS toast with jam or an entire bar of Green and Blacks dark chocolate (guilty). Leave your answers in the comments box below and I’ll pick the best answer. Good luck!

Baby Essentials – That every new Mum needs for under £50

As every new Mum knows, the high street and internet are full of hundreds of baby products for new parents to choose from. Even though my girls are now 4 and 7 the choice of bibs for example has multiplied to another level since they were being weaned. I am a self confessed shop-oholic, so when it came to buying bits for my babies I was of course scouring the baby boutiques for the ‘must haves’. ‘Of course we need a cream cashmere baby blanket’ I said to persuade my sceptical husband. And of course he was right, we didn’t need anything that was hand wash only.

What I wish someone had really told me, was what I actually need that didn’t break the bank. Essential baby bits that create better quality sleep, stimulate your baby enough to make them sleep, help through those tricky teething days and products that wash and travel well. So when I was asked by one of my women who is almost due, what essential items I would recommend, I did a bit of research and came up with these brilliant 10 items! Enjoy.

Images: c/o Babydino.com  

  1. These brilliant Buggy Clips weren’t around when I had my first daughter but I’ll admit I stalked a mum in Sainsburys who had one dangling off her buggy just to get a closer look. No more shoving all your shopping bags under your minuscule buggy basket, these sturdy clips are great and fit all buggy types.
  2. A sleeping bag is an absolute must for when your baby out grows being swaddled. No more baby getting cold from kicking off his blankets in the night! These Gro Company sleeping bags start from new born and go up to 36 months. And with so many gorgeous designs to choose from throughout the seasons you’ll find it a permanent item for your baby’s bedtime routine.
  3. Another genius idea from the Gro Company is this portable black out blind. Once you’ve got home life sorted, it’s time to re-engage your social life and stay at friends houses. All I can say it once you’ve slept in a guest room with a flimsy curtain when your baby is use to their blacked out bedroom, you soon realise why this blind was created. It fits any type of window and we still take ours abroad with us on Summer holiday each year. Thank you Gro Company.
  4. I’ve banged on before at how much I think swaddling is the key to settling an unsettled baby and I literally could not have survived without giant swaddles. Mopping up baby sick, catching the milk drips, and now my 4 year old takes her ‘muzzie’ to bed, these basic but essential pieces of fabric should be in every new mum’s baby bag.
  5. Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to provide the best nutritional start for your baby’s life. But it’s a skill both you and your baby need to learn, it takes time and patience and can be back breaking. My shoulders were permanently hunched over until my Mum bought me one of these. Great for giving you arms extra support and ensuring your baby is in the correct ‘tummy to mummy’ position. This Chicco Boppy pillow has a removable washable cover and can be used as a support pillow as your baby learns to sit up.
  6. I remember one friend telling me her newborn only settled when she did the hovering or ran the shower. Nonsense I thought until I had my own baby and tested this out. Luckily the Cloud B on the go Sleep Sheep (try saying that after too many glasses of wine) is far more practical than taking your Dyson out with you in the park. This  can easily clip onto your pram or car seat and plays an array of noises aimed to help soothe your baby to sleep.
  7. So you’ve made the transition to being out and about but you know come 2pm you little one is going to need her afternoon nap. Until I bought one of these, I would make the trip back home to ensure my daughter was asleep in her blackout bedroom. But this Snoozeshade does just that – without you having to leave the pub! It also works brilliant on very hot days as it helps block 99% of harmful UV rays.
  8. No child can go through it’s teething life without owning a Sophie The Giraffe, so popular that I’m sure they hand them out when parents leave the hospital in France. Rubber, soft and squeaky she is the perfect companion for all babies of any age.
  9. Driving your precious new baby in a car is a nerve racking experience for any new Mum, and when your baby is still in a rear facing car seat you’re constantly trying to turn around to check on them. This Diono Easy View Mirror is a perfect way for any parent to clearly and safely see their baby without taking your concentration off the road.
  10. From an early age babies love looking at black and white shapes. This lovely Chicco Baby Senses Rattle is light and easy to grasp, for the smallest of hands, perfect to stimulate hand eye coordination in young babies.

 

What Did You Name Yours?

Important-Tips-Choosing-Baby-Name

Today Net Mums released the official top baby names from the last 12 months. The list doesn’t surprise me at all, after all I’m probably working in the one profession where I am at the forefront of hearing these names within minutes, often seconds of delivering a baby. During my career I have heard it all when it comes to naming your baby. I’m not going to name and shame but there have been some interesting moments in the delivery room when the new parents have revealed their baby daughter’s name. ‘So how are you spelling that?’ is often my polite answer. You get the idea.

Now I’m no expert at naming babies, I’ve had 2 girls of my own and I do think girls names are much easier than boys names. I hate being put on the spot and I have been asked by new parents to pick between two names for their child. I have also had a baby girl named after me which was a lovely surprise.

So here is my top tips for naming your child

  • ALWAYS consider your child. You might like a certain name because it’s supercool or unique, but remember that it is not you who needs to go through life with this name. Do you really want your child having to explain herself to every single person who needs to write her name? Trust me my name has 10 letters in it. Not much space on the page to fill them all in ,hence why I shortened it.
  • Pregnancy hormones can play havoc with your sense of humour and emotions. Naming your child after the character you saw on TV may not be such a great idea ten years down the line. I once met two sisters called Cagney and Lacey.
  • Consider all possible nicknames and names that rhyme. Kids will always find a way to tease other kids especially when names are involved. The day one boy at school realised that Clemmie rhymed with Flemmy was the day I started calling myself Sarah.
  • Research the meaning of the names you like. You don’t want to realise after you’ve named your baby Claudia, that it actually means lame.
  • Say it out loud. Like lots of times. Say it with your surname, call it across the park (to see if any dogs come running). We never realised how similar my daughters name Marnie sound like Mummy. It still gets confusing.
  • And write it down. Lots of times just like you did when you wrote down your boyfriends name age 16 all over your homework diary. You’ll be surprised how instantly you love it or hate it.
  • Think about the initials especially if you’re using a middle name. I knew someone with the initials BJ. His surname was Madick. Enough said
  • Negotiate with your partner. I worked really hard on my second daughters middle name Violet. I figured as I was pushing our baby out of me I could pretty much call her what I liked. Amazingly it worked.
  • Be careful who you tell. When you’re pregnant people LOVE to ask (guilty) ‘Have you thought of any names?’ And if you choose to reveal a few be prepared for odd looking faces or negative comments. When I was pregnant with my first daughter I told a certain member of the family a girls name I had fallen in love with. The member of the family very quickly made her feelings known about that name. I haven’t quite forgiven her.
  • Never ask your teacher friends their opinion. I have heard countless times ‘Jack is always a naughty boy name’. Also feel sorry for your friends if they’re both teachers. Naming their child must be an impossible task.
  • You don’t have to love your child’s name. As odd as it sounds your child grows into their name and you can’t imagine them being called anything else. Both our girls are often called by their nicknames or their full names.
  • And lastly, once you revealed your child’s name, stick to it. I once knew a couple who changed their sons name when he was 5 months old. It was confusing especially for the baby’s 3 year old brother.

 

Let’s Talk About Sex Baby!

Last weekend has been spent celebrating my gorgeous friend’s wedding with all my old school pals in the New Forest. She is the second one of us to tie the knot (after me) and looked just beautiful. The day was perfect in every way and as I type this I think the newly weds have already landed in Dubai for their ‘mini moon’, yup that’s a thing now – 1 honey moon just isn’t enough! As the weekend events has started coming back to me, it got me thinking about marriage, love, sex, babies and what the future means for newly married couples.

You see sex is such a funny old thing isn’t it. We’re still embarrassed about talking about it openly, so much so that when I talk to women postnatally about contraception I don’t know who is blushing more, me or the woman? Often the woman is looking at me like I’m mad and probably thinking ‘I have a new born baby, stitches that still haven’t healed and my breasts are so sore and swollen I feel like a Jersey cow but yes I can’t wait to have sex with my husband’. Am I right?

And it’s pretty silly really, as sex is the reason why you’re pregnant in the first place. I mean if it wasn’t for sex I would be out of a job and the world would be a very strange place.

SO why are we still so prudish about chatting about sex especially after you’ve had a baby? Us girls pretty much tell each other everything about our births but once that baby has left your body no one wants to be the first at the postnatal coffee group to say ‘we tried to have sex last night but I was so dry my partner couldn’t get it in.’ Women want to be seen to be handling it all, a new baby, her postnatal figure, sleep routines, the transition into motherhood so there’s no way anyone would want to confess that they haven’t had sex since their baby was born 8 months ago.

So when is the right time to have sex and what does it really feel like?

calander

The answer is; when you feel ready. That may be when your baby is 5 weeks old or when it’s 5 months old. Only you know your body and how you feel so don’t feel pressured by others or your partner for that matter. By the time you may be thinking about having sex you might have a vague idea when your baby might be asleep for more than 10 minutes preferably in the cot on not in the sling (awkward). Always pick a time when your baby has had a good feed especially if you’re breastfeeding (no one wants a leaky boob whilst their partner is on top) and has a clean nappy. Nothing like killing the moment to change an up-the-back-leaked-all-over-the-clean-babygrow-type-poo.

Unless you’re Tamara Ecclestone your post baby body isn’t going to look how it use to. I remember being horrified when looking down at my stomach whilst in a certain position during sex with my partner after my first baby thinking ‘will it always hang down like that???’  Obviously with a bit of time and work it did eventually look marginally more acceptable but it still wobbles and rolls in 3 places and I’d opt for the ‘spoons’ position rather than on top any day.

sex

For me and the majority of women out there, the first you have postnatal sex is a bit like ,well, the first time you ever had sex – awkward, embarrassing, nerve racking and uncomfortable. You hope it will be over fairly quickly (it often is) and you don’t really want to talk about it ever again.

As one of my friends recently shared with me after her first time,”I think sex after birth is an oxymoron in itself… It’s terrifyingly wonderful. I was petrified of wiping myself after having a wee, let alone having a willy go there!! However, it’s so lovely when you realise it all feels just as amazing and helps to reunite you as a couple.”

Try not to ask your partner if it feels wider, bigger, looser, softer or different during sex. It will put him off and kill the mood. You may feel different but you partner may not even notice. He will just be pleased to be able to have some intimacy with you after such a long break.

“The worst thing was the nerves. I was really tense – Would it hurt? Would he feel my stitches? What if I felt different or it wasn’t enjoyable for either of us? It was like it was my first time all over again! It wasn’t actually that bad or that uncomfortable, I think the fact that I was so tense was the biggest cause of discomfort. After lots of reassurance from my boyfriend and a few more go’s I’ve got my confidence back, have relaxed and am enjoying it much more again” another friend adds.

If you’ve had a c-section your vagina and perineum should feel and look the same as before you were pregnant (lucky you) but you may still feel sore around your scar and your stomach muscles can still feel pretty wounded. A position like ‘spoons’ is probably sensible as it doesn’t put any strain on your tummy.

If you’ve had a vaginal birth obviously make sure your tear is completely healed before embarking on a passionate night in the bedroom. (Usually at your 6 week postnatal check up with your GP you have the opportunity to raise any issues you may have about your perineum and vagina). You may want to even have a look with a mirror before hand and see how things are looking. Don’t be freaked out by this idea, you will be surprised how well the vaginal and perineal tissues heal. I had a small tear with no stitches and honestly I couldn’t see where the tear even was, let alone feel it.  And I have seen lots of women’s vaginas after they’ve had an episiotomy or a 2nd degree tear and again the tissues have healed really well. Getting to know what down there looks like is important for understanding how our bodies work and how well we heal after having babies. Go mother nature!

“I had trouble not only getting in the mood but also with lubricating naturally. My baby was breach and then ended up having to be an emergency c-section after sort of getting whipped out. With body confidence issues aside, I also found various angles of penetration extremely uncomfortable (probably due to the sweeps I had during labour and the fact that I almost managed to give birth naturally) After a few months, I finally got the confidence to do so and after a good long while I finally found a position that was completely comfortable with (on my side, him behind) this meant that I didn’t need to worry about my hideous tummy, but also the angle worked perfectly. It took over a year for things to return to normal but we took it very very slowly and eventually things returned to normal.”

It’s normal for the vagina to feel drier than usual after childbirth which is linked to lower levels of oestrogen in your body compared to when you were pregnant. If you are breastfeeding this may be even lower so using a lubrication such as a KY jelly may help ease this and make sex and oral sex with your partner more enjoyable.

So my top tips to round this awkward over sharing blog post off is:

  • Only have sex when YOU feel ready
  • Choose a time when the baby is fed, clean and asleep
  • If it hurts or feels uncomfortable it’s ok to stop and try again at another time
  • Choose positions which make you feel comfortable so you can enjoy it
  • If wearing a chemise, bra, corset, pair of Spanx in bed makes you feel more confident then go for it!
  • ALWAYS use contraception – even if you are breastfeeding
  • And remember the more pelvic floor exercises you do, the tighter your muscles will be and the less likely you are to wet yourself on a trampoline!

The Truth About Maternity Leave

The other day I discharged one of my women on day 23. This may sound quite late to still be visiting women after they’ve had a baby but personally I feel that day 14 is too soon. Most women’s partners are back at work after 2 weeks and that first week flying solo is really tough. You feel like you are constantly breastfeeding and the thought of even getting dressed and leaving the house is too much to cope with. So you stay in your pj’s watching day time tv and eating chocolate biscuits, checking Facebook, taking selfies of you and your new baby and using those amazing Instagram filters to hide your bags.

I gave my usual schpeel about seeing your GP at 6 weeks, contraception, pelvic floor exercises, baby clinic and asked what her support network like. She rolled off all the classes her and her pals she’d met at NTC are going to do. Baby massage, baby sensory, baby yoga, swimming, power pramming, baby cinema. I was exhausted just thinking about all of that. I can barely fit in the 3 runs a week I am trying to do as part of my get fit routine this year. But I smiled a knowing smile and walked away thinking she will be just fine. It’s all a big learning curve.

Because all that stuff you throw yourself into during maternity leave is really to keep you sane and get you out of the house. And you don’t want to feel like you’re missing out or that you’re a bad mother for depriving your baby of any of those classes which are scientifically proven to increase their IQ (ahem).

So as a mother of 2 having gone through maternity leave twice and hated some days so much I wanted to scream and run back to work, I want to share with you the truth with some tips thrown in too, for your own sanity.

Not even Instagram's filter could hide how tired I felt

Not even Instagram’s filter could hide how tired I felt

Maternity leave is expensive. Once your mat pay starts to dwindle, all those coffees and lunches out start eating a hole in your purse. But where’s the pleasure in sitting at home drinking a Nescafe? Think wisely to saying yes to meeting friends for lunch. If you’re meeting work pals in town during their lunch break they should really offer to pay as they’re on a full time salary. If some of your new ‘mum mates’ live locally, take it in turns to host coffee mornings at each other’s houses. Offer to make a cake or if you’re living in the real world and have been up all night with your baby take a packet of chocolate Hobnobs. Chocolate always makes things better.

Baby classes are great but again so expensive. I paid for 10 mother and baby yoga classes at a local private gym. Total waste of money. My baby screamed during every position the teacher got us to do, even bouncing her on an exercise ball whilst singing ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’ didn’t end her screams. I ended up sitting on the side breastfeeding her for the rest of the class and lying when the teacher asked me if I was doing my pelvic floor exercises. And you know what I learnt? I learnt that my baby was highly strung and hated the echo and noise of that place and at that time of the morning she wanted to be fed and then sleep in her sling. Lessons learnt.

Maternity leave is a competitive game. It’s a constant battle of who’s losing their baby weight quicker, whose baby is playing with what toy, who’s getting more sleep, whose baby is reaching the next milestone. With my first baby I joined a postnatal already established group of 7 Mums. You know the saying ‘too many cooks?’ Well it was a bit like that. To this day 2 of them are still my really close friends but I found the big group meet ups stressful and one girl far too controlling and bitchy. It was like being back at school. With my second baby I already had friends with babies so I saw them separately and it was perfect. Everyone was a little more chilled and more into meeting up and swapping gossip rather than weaning tips.

Sleep deprivation pushes you to the lowest of lows. And once the night is over the day comes and babies don’t sleep for long in the day unless they’re being constantly pushed in their pram. This is tough. There were days were I wanted to be at home, getting house holds chores done, maybe do some cooking but my daughter like all babies wanted to be held, CONSTANTLY. Because that’s what babies do. They don’t really like those bouncer chairs for more than 2 minutes 24 seconds and no one can shower and wash their hair that quickly, never mind shave their legs. So my advice is get a sling if you have shit to do, or leave the washing and watch box sets whilst breastfeeding on the sofa. Stock up on loads of them now if you’re pregnant and reading this. Ask for them if your friends want to buy you presents for your baby shower. Breaking Bad and Mad Men are my top recommendations.

Self help books made me feel like an idiot. ‘How to get your baby to sleep through the night’ books and ‘How to get your baby into a routine’ are more challenging that the task itself. Don’t get me wrong, I know and have heard of many babies who have been trained to do this but not without a lot of stress and tears. A vivid memory of this was when my first baby was 6 weeks old and I was reading a certain book to try and established a routine to our misery. I was holding her in one arm as she screamed and scanning the pages of the book in the other trying to find the bit that said what I should be doing at mid day with her. The book clearly states that she can’t be hungry as I had fed her only an hour ago and she needs some ‘tummy time’ on her play gym. It was mid day, she was screaming and screaming on her tummy under her horrible garish play gym. I looked at this hideously stressful situation I was putting her and myself in. So what did I do? I listened to my maternal instincts, picked her up cuddled her and fed her. And I promised her that I would throw that stupid book away and never do that to her again. We made it through the rest of the day just fine.

You will feel like a failure and that you can’t do it. You know in labour when you said ‘I can’t do this is’ and your partner and midwife said ‘You can and you are doing this’, well remember that. Because all over the country and the world other mothers are thinking the same thing. You’re not depressed, you are just climbing the huge mountain of motherhood. And no one said it was easy, and maternity leave is on some days boring, and lonely and unfulfilling. And you crave your old life, and the job you left behind because you used your intelligent brain and felt stimulated and had proper lunch breaks and went for a wee without having a baby attached to your nipple. But you are doing just fine. Who cares if your baby is wearing a stained baby grow and you haven’t done the baby massage your were taught in those stupidly expensive classes today. All your baby knows and needs is you. And that can feel overwhelming in itself. And the sleep does get better, and adjusting to motherhood takes time, plenty of time. Mine are 6 and 3 and I’m still adjusting. Share your fears and anxieties with your mum mates because we need to be sisterly in all of this and be honest with one another.

And just when you’ve got into the swing of it all and your baby is eating solids, and sleeping better and holding toys and actually enjoying going to play groups, your maternity leave is almost up. And you can’t believe how fast the past 11 months has gone and you’ll be riddled with guilt and questioning everything. ‘Why did I complain that it was so awful, I’m going to miss my baby so much. Will my baby be happy at nursery/the childminder? Did I do enough? The answer is yes you will miss that small human you have spent every second of the day with for the past year and yes your child will be happy with the new routine of nursery/the childminder. And yes you did enough you survived, you will get a piece of your life back. And you will be a stronger human for it.

Visitors

new parents

A while back I was seeing one of my women on day 3 postnatal.  She had a forceps delivery after a long old labour and was feeling rather shattered. Feeding wasn’t going well; her baby was very irritable due to the delivery and he wasn’t latching on and her nipples were cracked and bleeding. And to top it all off her perineum was incredibly sore and could barely sit down, lie down, manoeuvre herself to the bathroom. You get it she was in a bad way. But one thing really struck me about the scene I was witnessing. The people in her home.

Her parents were there. Her Mum, trying to be helpful getting extra cushions to support her when trying to feed her screaming baby. Her father hiding in the kitchen not really wanting to hear his daughter discuss her sore bottom and bleeding. Her sister, sister’s husband and 2 young nieces hovering in the living room ‘just wanting one photo of the girls with their new cousin to send to Granny’. And her brother who had driven all the way from Newcastle but won’t stay long, just wants a little peek at his new nephew. All in all there were waaaaay too many people in her small terraced house. It got me thinking. Who is really benefiting from all these family members being there? The 3 day old irritable hungry baby certainly didn’t need those extra hands touching his sore little head. Her husband was feeling undermined by his wife’s slightly overbearing Mother making annoying comments like ‘What he needs is a good walk in his pram’. And what about the woman, the centre of all of this bravado! She was a hormonal mess unable to express how she really felt, not wanting to push people away so she let all her family members bombard her. *

So what is the right thing to do when hundreds of friends and family are desperate to come over and see you and your new baby? How can you manage the endless texts and phone calls?  Rachel from When The Baby Sleeps  shares her experiences and tips when visiting new parents.

Visiting new parents is a minefield, and if you’re not careful you can really mess it up. You can leave traumatised by a gory birth story, riddled with guilt because you took totally the wrong things or, worst of all, blissfully unaware of the havoc you have wreaked. Becoming a parent for me meant apologising to my friends-with-kids. Primarily because on that first visit to meet their firstborns I had no idea. I mean I didn’t rock up with wine breath or anything crazy like that.. but you know, I just didn’t quite know how to behave. But I do now. Here’s how:

Take food.
Take food.
Take food. Yes, it’s that important that it gets three mentions. Take a staple, take a luxury, take something that can be stuffed in your gob while your friend does three things at once. Don’t text asking what they need and expect an honest answer. Just turn up with some stuff. It will be cherished. Seriously, you remember the bread & milk gifts as clearly as the cool gifts for baby. I learned quite quickly that if you take food, essentially, you rock.
Don’t stay too long. Now one person’s too long is another person’s warm up, right? But when it comes to new parent visits, limit yourself to 45 minutes to one hour absolute maximum. Unless you’re throwing in a bit of cleaning/putting out the rubbish/taking the baby out type activity as a bonus (see next point), which earns you an extra 15 minutes. Energy is limited and there’s a hit-by-a-bus vibe in the air for a good couple of months so be mindful and vigilant. Even if you catch parents on a good afternoon it is highly likely they will wave you goodbye and then quite literally want to lie down on the floor with exhaustion. Most parents will generally be too polite to say ‘please fuck off I’ve started to hallucinate again.’ Pay heed.
Be Helpful. Depending on the closeness of the friendship ‘helpful’ can range from rinsing out your own tea cups to doing a full clean of the kitchen or putting out the rubbish. Make it your mission to do something and do your utmost to ensure it gets done and not rebuffed in a brilliant show of English awkwardness. Offer specific tasks and embrace them with aplomb and beaming. You may have to literally shoo your visitees back to their seats and kidnap the washing up until its ass is wiped, but it will be worth any awkwardness. Definitely offer to take the baby out for a walk if they’re passed the ‘DON’T LET THE BABY OUT OF MY SIGHT!’ phase. 
Listen, but not too hard. If you visit in the first month then you’ll probably hit the ‘birth story’ phase. There will be details extraneous, things you don’t understand and the couple will almost certainly disagree or argue over some aspect of what happened and in what order. We couldn’t agree on specifically which swears I’d invoked at one key moment (I swear it was ‘ow, ow, fucky fucky ow ow’ but apparently I wasn’t this coherent.) Nod, pay attention but do feel free to drift off a little if anyone mentions something a bit too gross, particularly if you’re planning on procreating yourself. A well placed ‘hmmm’, ‘ouch’, ‘oh wow’ should cover you. And remember, it’s all part of the fun. 
Don’t take flowers. Yes, flowers are lovely to look at, but remembering to tend to them and throw them away before they die isn’t easy. When you’re prostrate, low on energy and riddled with hormones then the changing of the flower water just doesn’t happen. Said flowers become rank quite quickly, and soon your living room resembles a flower mortuary. The flowers’ rapidly decaying visage becomes a direct representation of your utter failure as a mother and member of the human race and circa 3am they haunt and disturb you as you navigate your new life feeling as vulnerable and weak as the shadows they cast. Don’t put anyone through that, alright?
Don’t take alcohol. Again, booze is all fine and dandy but it’s just not on the agenda for new parents. That bottle of plonk, while a lovely way to celebrate what is essentially the happiest event in your life, will instead come to resemble either your past, carefree life of grog and gayness, or the future that you know lies ahead of you but just seems so far away. There will be a time in the not-so-distant future when you will wear clothes, go about your business at normal hours of the day and then sit down, like a grownup, and have an alcoholic drink, but in the early days such activities seem baffling and unlikely. So give it a rest would you?
Be careful what you talk about. I met a brilliant mum of twins who told a harrowing story about some guests who spent 10 minutes decrying the difficulty of tracking down a particular size of Brabantia bin liner and their epic quest to get hold of said bin liner on a particularly hectic Saturday morning shopping trip. Six years down the line she remembered this event in excruciating detail, so painful and galling had it been. Poor, brave soul. Another friend spits bile whenever she recounts how a colleague turned up with a ton of office ‘news’ when she was still on Day 7 confusion. Don’t rock up with a load of office gossip or woeful tale about sourcing Brabantia products and expect anyone to give a shit, is essentially my advice here. 
Don’t panic. You may be freaked out by the state of your friend, now he or she has crossed the divide and become one of them. Please don’t panic. Your friend will return, even if in a slightly different, stranger format. 

On that first visit you may see and hear strange things. You may catch glance of your first nipple shield, pumping device or god forbid a maternity pad. For this we can only apologise. Your friend may say things that are utterly unforgivable  totally batshit crazy and she or he may not even pretend to listen to a word you say. They may tell you to wash your hands every five minutes or even ‘shush’ you particularly harshly if you have a barking kind of laugh… all of these things are normal, I’m afraid. And they too shall pass.

And that, dear reader, is it. Easy. You can thank me later.

Trouble is that now I have to take a toddler with me when I go visit new parents and that’s a whole other minefield. All advice welcome before I make a total hash of it…

*This is a fictitious story of a senario and was used as an example to describe an event. No persons mentioned are real.*

Your Postnatal Body – The Truth

No one really wants to hear the truth. Your new hair cut you spent a ridiculous amount of money on doesn’t suit you. Your child is the devil and I don’t want her to play with my daughter any more. I’m not that keen on your boring husband so we would rather not come for dinner again. The meal you spent hours slaving over tastes like cardboard and I’m craving beans on toast. You get the gist, no one ever wants to hear that. So we all keep hush.

And then there’s the things no one tells you about when your’re pregnant, like a sort of extra added ‘Surprise’ once you’ve popped. And you would never dare tell other pregnant women any of these things, nope, everyone must discover them for themselves. As we all know ‘The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club’For example a wonderful friend once described having a bath when her baby was a few weeks old. Upon leaving the bath she said ‘It felt like I was taking half the bath water away with me’. I laughed till I cried because that’s exactly what it feels like, all roomy and well, wider down there even though this doesn’t last forever. *does 50 pelvic floors as she types*

Another area that us Mama’s don’t really talk about is our tummies and we certainly don’t show them to anyone. I for one am always trying to disguise mine, flatten with a pair of Spanx, wear a lot of black, constantly breathing in when in public. In fact ANYTHING to make mine look flatter. Now, if I’m completely honest with you all I never had a flat or toned tummy before having children. It was always a bit wobbly but now it has a mind of it’s own. It folds in 3 places when I sit down. My belly button is wide enough to fit a pound coin in it (yes I’ve tried) and the little black star tattoo I had done aged 16 to piss off my parents now resembles a meteorite. That will teach me.

After seeing Kate Middleton’s postpartum tummy as she emerged with Prince George last week, I whooped and cheered and thanked her for embracing her tummy in that gorgeous polka dot dress. Because that’s what you look like the day after you’ve had a baby! It then got me thinking, why are we so ashamed of what our bodies look like after doing something so incredible? Why do I cringe at the thought of wearing a bikini at the local Lido when it was 30 degrees last week? What has celebrity culture done to make us Mamas feel any less of ourselves after such a major life changing event?  (OK magazine I’m talking to you). We should all be immensely proud of what we have achieved. Each and every one of us. American artist Jade Beall has done just that and photographed women’s post baby bodies in a series of beautiful images, capturing what a powerful thing the female body is. Her photos went viral last week and I finally felt at last people can really see what women look like after having children. Her photos inspired me to write this post and photograph my tummy.

2 children aged 6 and 2

Mama to 2 aged 6 and 2.5

Then I wondered, would anyone else want to reveal theirs? A few Instagram, Twitter, Facebook requests later and my inbox was filling up with amazing tummy shots! I couldn’t believe it. Your stories about your scars and stretch marks moved me to tears. All of you said no matter what state your tummy was in, you ALL felt hugely proud of what it had achieved And so you bloody well should. Here are the results.

‘You’re body is not ruined; You’re a goddamn tiger who earned her stripes’

A huge thank you to each and every one of you that has contributed to this post, you are all tigers in my eyes.

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Image (3) Image (4) Image

From Left to right

Row 1: 1 child age 1.5, 1 child age 6 months,

Row 2: 1 child age 1.5 and 12 weeks pregnant, 2 children age 2.5 and 9 months

Row 3: 2 children age 2 and 6 months, 2 children age 2 and 4 months

Row 4: 2 children age 5 and 3, 2 children age 2.5 and 1

Row 5: 1 child age 1.5, 1 child age 1.5

Row 6: 2 children age 3 and 10 weeks, 2 children age 5 and 3

Row 7: 1 child age 1, 2 children age 2 and 6 weeks

Row 8: 3 children age 8, 3 and 7 months, 2 children age 2 and 6 months

Row 9: 2 children age 4 and 3 months, 2 children age 4 and 3

Row 10: 1 child age 5 months, 2 children age 4 and 3,

Row 11: 3 children 6.5, 4.5 and 19 months, 3 children age 8, 6 and 4

Row 12: 1 child age 6 months, 2 children age 4 and 2.

Birth Story of The Week – Katie and Chubs

How is it Monday already? And where has the sun gone? Well here is another lovely birth story from a very special friend to brighten up your day. Katie and I met on the first day at uni when we were training to be midwives 10 years ago. Wow that seems really weird. Little old me from London venturing out on this new life in Bristol to become a midwife. I remember seeing Katie and admiring her tan (she had just been travelling in Australia) and we became friends from that day on, living together in our final year. Katie has recently become a Mummy to little Chubs and here is her story.

Blog: Chubs and Love

Twitter: midwifebrown

I think it’s been long enough now that my memory has faded enough to give me the rose-tinted glasses when I look back on it all. In fact, I’m thinking about the next one – it wasn’t that bad, I’ll have a home birth next time!!I was convinced I was going to be early with Chubs, all my friends who had had babies recently had delivered at 38/39 weeks so I definitely would too, of course! But, 38 weeks then 39 weeks passed me by and I reached my due date with no signs. Nothing at all.

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Due date bump

I spent the day making curtains for the nursery with my mum to occupy myself and prepared myself for my ‘new’ due date of T+12 when I’d be induced.Nine days later, on a Sunday evening, the day before my boyfriend was supposed to start his new job, I started feeling a bit uncomfortable. I warned him he might not be going and concentrated on cooking a roast dinner. (I had already polyfiller’d holes in the dining room and done a big supermarket shop that day!) About 9pm I took some paracetamol and sent Boyfriend to bed to get some rest as I had a feeling it was going to be a long night. I had a bath and started using my Natal Hypnotherapy breathing techniques but it was too much.

At 1am we went on in to the hospital. I was slightly disappointed to find I was 3cm, I should be more, surely?! Although bearing in mind I had been unable to have a sweep 3 days before, it wasn’t so bad.I was left in the quiet, dark room for a couple of hours before getting in the pool. Ohhh the lovely, lovely pool. It was so warm and quiet and just wonderful. I relaxed a little too much though and my contractions died off. By this time it was 6am and I was so tired. My hypnotherapy breathing just wasn’t cutting it any more and the gas and air just made me feel weird. I decided to have an epidural to allow me to get some sleep.

As the contractions had sodded off and I’d only managed to get myself to 5cm I was also put on the hormone drip syntocinon to give my body a bit of a kick up the arse. I spent the day dozing, eating toast and chatting with Boyfriend and various colleagues who popped in to say hello. My epidural was awesome, I couldn’t feel any of the pain, but could move my legs about easily.

By the afternoon I was feeling really strong pressure and felt I needed to push. I might have been a bit crap at labour, but pushing I loved! I was determined to give it some welly. I remember saying to my midwife ‘they lie to you at uni, babies come out of your bum, I know they do, I can feel it!’ It was hard work, but felt good to be productive and doing something finally.38 minutes later, at 16.08 my beautiful, perfect, squashed little Chubs arrived and my life began.

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